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Full text of "Memorial to the legislature of Massachusetts, 1843. By Dorothea L. Dix"

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This book must not be 
taken from the Library 


*I come 
to present the 
strong claims of 
suffering humanity" 




This re-create(i 
is presented with 
the compiiiiients ol 
Roche Laboratories 
Nutley, New Jei'sev 

(--TSocnE. j — 

Memorial to the 
Legislature of 



Gentlemen, — I respectfully ask to present this Memorial, 
believing that the cause, which actuates to and sanctions so unusual 
a movement, presents no equivocal claim to pubHc considera- 
tion and sympathy. Surrendering to calm and deep convictions 
of duty my habitual views of what is womanly and becoming, 
I proceed briefly to explain what has conducted me before you 
unsoUcited and unsustained, trusting, while I do so, that the 
memorialist will be speedily forgotten in the memorial. 

About two years since leisure afforded opportunity and duty 
prompted me to visit several prisons and almshouses in the vi- 
cinity of this metropolis. I found, near Boston, in the jails and 
asylums for the poor, a numerous class brought into unsuitable 
connection with criminals and the general mass of paupers. I 
refer to idiots and insane persons, dweUing in circumstances 
not only adverse to their own physical and moral improvement, 
but productive of extreme disadvantages to all other persons 
brought into association with them. I applied myself diligently 
to trace the causes of these evils, and sought to supply remedies. 
As one obstacle was surmounted, fresh difficulties appeared. 
Every new investigation has given depth to the conviction that 
it is only by decided, prompt, and vigorous legislation the evils 
to which I refer, and which I shall proceed more fully to illustrate, 
can be remedied. I shall be obHged to speak with great plain- 
ness, and to reveal many things revolting to the taste, and from 


which my woman's nature shrinks with pecuHar sensitiveness. 
But truth is the highest consideration. / tell what I have seen — 
painful and shocking as the details often are — that from them 
you may feel more deeply the imperative obligation which 
lies upon you to prevent the possibility of a repetition or con- 
tinuance of such outrages upon humanity. If I inflict pain 
upon you, and move you to horror, it is to acquaint you with 
sufferings which you have the power to alleviate, and make you 
hasten to the rehef of the victims of legaHzed barbarity. 

I come to present the strong claims of suffering humanity. 
I come to place before the Legislature of Massachusetts the 
condition of the miserable, the desolate, the outcast. I come 
as the advocate of helpless, forgotten, insane, and idiotic men 
and women; of beings sunk to a condition from which the most 
unconcerned would start with real horror; of beings wretched 
in our prisons, and more wretched in our almshouses. And I 
cannot suppose it needful to employ earnest persuasion, or stub- 
born argument, in order to arrest and fix attention upon a sub- 
ject only the more strongly pressing in its claims because it 
is revolting and disgusting in its details. 

I must confine myself to few examples, but am ready to fur- 
nish other and more complete details, if required. If my pict- 
ures are displeasing, coarse, and severe, my subjects, it must 
be recollected, offer no tranquil, refined, or composing features. 
The condition of human beings, reduced to the extremest states 
of degradation and misery, cannot be exhibited in softened lan- 
guage, or adorn a poHshed page. 

I proceed, gentlemen, briefly to call your attention to the pres- 
ent state of insane persons confined within this Commonwealth, 
in cages, closets, cellars, stalls, pens! Chained, naked, beaten with 
rods, and lashed into obedience. 

As I state cold, severe facts, I feel obliged to refer to persons, 
and definitely to indicate localities. But it is upon my subject, 
not upon localities or individuals, I desire to fix attention; and 
I would speak as kindly as possible of all wardens, keepers, and 
other responsible officers, believing that most of these have erred 
not through hardness of heart and wilful cruelty so much as 
want of skill and knowledge, and want of consideration. Fa- 
miliarity with suffering, it is said, blunts the sensibilities, and 
where neglect once finds a footing other injuries are multiplied. 
This is not all, for it may justly and strongly be added that, 
from the deficiency of adequate means to meet the wants of 

these cases, it has been an absolute impossibiUty to do justice in 
this matter. Prisons are not constructed in view of being con- 
verted into county hospitals, and almshouses are not founded 
as receptacles for the insane. And yet, in the face of justice 
and common sense, wardens are by law compelled to receive, 
and the masters of almshouses not to refuse, insane and idiotic 
subjects in all stages of mental disease and privation. 

It is the Commonwealth, not its integral parts, that is ac- 
countable for most of the abuses which have lately and do still 
exist. I repeat it, it is defective legislation which perpetuates 
and multiplies these abuses. In illustration of my subject, I 
ofifer the following extracts from my Note-book and Journal: — 

Springfield. In the jail, one lunatic woman, furiously mad, 
a State pauper, improperly situated, both in regard to the pris- 
oners, the keepers, and herself. It is a case of extreme self- 
forgetfulness and oblivion to all the decencies of life, to describe 
which would be to repeat only the grossest scenes. She is much 
worse since leaving Worcester. In the almshouse of the same 
town is a woman apparently only needing judicious care, and 
some well-chosen employment, to make it unnecessary to con- 
fine her in solitude, in a dreary unfurnished room. Her ap- 
peals for employment and companionship are most touching, 
but the mistress repHed "she had no time to attend to her." 

Northampton. In the jail, quite lately, was a young man 
violently mad, who had not, as I was informed at the prison, 
come under medical care, and not been returned from any hos- 
pital. In the almshouse the cases of insanity are now unmarked 
by abuse, and afford evidence of judicious care by the keepers. 

Williamsburg. The almshouse has several insane, not under 
suitable treatment. No apparent intentional abuse. 

Rutland. Appearance and report of the insane in the alms- 
house not satisfactory. 

Sterling. A terrible case; manageable in a hospital; at pres- 
ent as well controlled perhaps as circumstances in a case so ex- 
treme allow. An almshouse, but wholly wrong in relation to 
the poor crazy woman, to the paupers generally, and to her keepers. 

Burlington. A woman, declared to be very insane; decent 
room and bed; but not allowed to rise oftener, the mistress said, 
"than every other day: it is too much trouble." 

Concord. A woman from the hospital in a cage in the alms- 
house. In the jail several, decently cared for in general, but 

not properly placed in a prison. Violent, noisy, unmanageable 
most of the time. 

Lincoln. A woman in a cage. Medjord. One idiotic subject 
chained, and one in a close stall for seventeen years. Pep- 
per ell. One often doubly chained, hand and foot; another vio- 
lent; several peaceable now. Brookfield. One man caged, com- 
fortable. Granville. One often closely confined; now losing 
the use of his limbs from want of exercise. Charlemont. One 
man caged. Savoy. One man caged. Lenox. Two in the 
jail, against whose unfit condition there the jailer protests. 

Dedham. The insane disadvantageously placed in the jail. 
In the almshouse, two females in stalls, situated in the main 
building; lie in wooden bunks filled with straw; always shut up. 
One of these subjects is supposed curable. The overseers of 
the poor have declined giving her a trial at the hospital, as I was 
informed, on account of expense. 

Franklin. One man chained; decent. Tattnton. One woman 
caged. Plymouth. One man stall-caged, from Worcester Hos- 
pital. Scituate. One man and one woman stall-caged. West 
Bridgewater. Three idiots. Never removed from one room. 
Barnstable. Four females in pens and stalls. Two chained 
certainly. I think all. Jail, one idiot. Well-fleet. Three in- 
sane. One man and one woman chained, the latter in a bad 
condition. Brewster. One woman violently mad, solitary. 
Could not see her, the master and mistress being absent, and 
the paupers in charge having strict orders to admit no one. 
Rochester. Seven insane; at present none caged. Milford. 
Two insane, not now caged. Cohasset. One idiot, one insane; 
most miserable condition. Plympton. One insane, three idiots; 
condition wretched. 

Besides the above, I have seen many who, part of the year, 
are chained or caged. The use of cages all but universal. Hardly 
a town but can refer to some not distant period of using them; 
chains are less common; negligences frequent; wilful abuse less 
frequent than sufferings proceeding from ignorance, or want of 
consideration. I encountered during the last three months 
many poor creatures wandering reckless and unprotected through 
the country. Innumerable accounts have been sent me of per- 
sons who had roved away unwatched and unsearched after; 
and I have heard that responsible persons, controlling the alms- 
houses, have not thought themselves culpable in sending away 
from their shelter, to cast upon the chances of remote relief, 


insane men and women. These, left on the highways, unfriended 
and incompetent to control or direct their own movements, 
sometimes have found refuge in the hospital, and others have 
not been traced. But I cannot particularize. In traversing 
the State, I have found hundreds of insane persons in every va- 
riety of circumstance and condition, many whose situation could 
not and need not be improved; a less number, but that very large, 
whose lives are the saddest pictures of human suffering and deg- 
radation. I give a few illustrations ; but description fades before 

Danvers. November. Visited the almshouse. A large build- 
ing, much out of repair. Understand a new one is in contem- 
plation. Here are from fifty-six to sixty inmates, one idiotic, 
three insane; one of the latter in close confinement at all times. 

Long before reaching the house, wild shouts, snatches of 
rude songs, imprecations and obscene language, fell upon the 
ear, proceeding from the occupant of a low building, rather 
remote from the principal building to which my course was di- 
rected. Found the mistress, and was conducted to the place 
which was called ^^the home^^ of the forlorn maniac, a young 
woman, exhibiting a condition of neglect and misery blotting 
out the faintest idea of comfort, and outraging every sentiment 
of decency. She had been, I learnt, "a respectable person, 
industrious and worthy. Disappointments and trials shook 
her mind, and, finally, laid prostrate reason and self-control. 
She became a maniac for life. She had been at Worcester Hos- 
pital for a considerable time, and had been returned as incura- 
ble." The mistress told me she understood that, " while there, 
she was comfortable and decent." Alas, what a change was 
here exhibited! She had passed from one degree of violence 
to another, in swift progress. There she stood, clinging to 
or beating upon the bars of her caged apartment, the contracted 
size of which afforded space only for increasing accumulations 
of filth, a foul spectacle. There she stood with naked arms 
and dishevelled hair, the unwashed frame invested with frag- 
ments of unclean garments, the air so extremely offensive, though 
ventilation was afforded on all sides save one, that it was not 
possible to remain beyond a few moments without retreating 
for recovery to the outward air. Irritation of body, produced 
by utter filth and exposure, incited her to the horrid process of 
tearing off her skin by inches. Her face, neck, and person were 
thus disfigured to hideousness. She held up a fragment just 

rent off. To my exclamation of horror, the mistress replied: 
*'0h, we can't help it. Half the skin is off sometimes. We 
can do nothing with her; and it makes no difference what she 
eats, for she consumes her own filth as readily as the food which 
is brought her." 

It is now January. A fortnight since two visitors reported 
that most wretched outcast as "wallowing in dirty straw, in a 
place yet more dirty, and without clothing, without fire. Worse 
cared for than the brutes, and wholly lost to consciousness of 
decency." Is the whole story told? What was seen is: what 
is reported is not. These gross exposures are not for the pained 
sight of one alone. All, all, coarse, brutal men, wondering, 
neglected children, old and young, each and all, witness this 
lowest, foulest state of miserable humanity. And who protects 
her, that worse than Pariah outcast, from other wrongs and blacker 
outrages? I do not know that such have been. I do know that 
they are to be dreaded, and that they are not guarded against. 

Some may say these things cannot be remedied, these furi- 
ous maniacs are not to be raised from these base conditions. I 
know they are. Could give many examples. Let one suffice. 
A young woman, a pauper, in a distant town, Sandisfield, was 
for years a raging maniac. A cage, chains, and the whip were 
the agents for controlling her, united with harsh tones and pro- 
fane language. Annually, with others (the town's poor), she 
was put up at auction, and bid off at the lowest price which was 
declared for her. One year, not long past, an old man came 
forward in the number of applicants for the poor wretch. He 
was taunted and ridiculed. ''What would he and his old wife 
do with such a mere beast?" "My wife says yes," replied he, 
*'and I shall take her." She was given to his charge. He con- 
veyed her home. She was washed, neatly dressed, and placed 
in a decent bedroom, furnished for comfort and opening into 
the kitchen. How altered her condition! As yet the chains were 
not off. The first week she was somewhat restless, at times 
violent, but the quiet, kind ways of the old people wrought a 
change. She received her food decently, forsook acts of vio- 
lence, and no longer uttered blasphemies or indecent language. 
After a week the chain was lengthened, and she was received 
as a companion into the kitchen. Soon she engaged in trivial 
employments. "After a fortnight," said the old man, "I knocked 
off the chains and made her a free woman." She is at times 
excited, but not violently. They are careful of her diet. They 

keep her very clean. She calls them '^ father" and '' mother." 
Go there now, and you will find her ''clothed," and, though not 
perfectly in her ''right mind," so far restored as to be a safe 
and comfortable inmate. 

Newhiiryport. Visited the almshouse in June last. Eighty 
inmates. Seven insane, one idiotic. Commodious and neat 
house. Several of the partially insane apparently very com- 
fortable. Two very improperly situated; namely, an insane 
man, not considered incurable, in an out-building, whose room 
opened upon what was called "the dead room," affording, in 
lieu of companionship with the Hving,a contemplation of corpses. 
The other subject was a woman in a cellar. I desired to see her. 
Much reluctance was shown. I pressed the request. The 
master of the house stated that she was in the cellar; that she 
was dangerous to be approached; that she had lately attacked 
his wife, and was often naked. I persisted, "If you will not go 
with me, give me the keys and I will go alone." Thus impor- 
tuned, the outer doors were opened. I descended the stairs 
from within. A strange, unnatural noise seemed to proceed 
from beneath our feet. At the moment I did not much regard 
it. My conductor proceeded to remove a padlock, while my 
eye explored the wide space in quest of the poor woman. All 
for a moment was still. But judge my horror and amazement, 
when a door to a closet beneath the staircase was opened, reveal- 
ing in the imperfect light a female apparently wasted to a skele- 
ton, partially wrapped in blankets, furnished for the narrow 
bed on which she was sitting. Her countenance furrowed, not 
by age, but suffering, was the image of distress. In that con- 
tracted space, unlighted, unventilated, she poured forth the 
wailings of despair. Mournfully she extended her arms and 
appealed to me: "Why am I consigned to hell? dark— dark— 
I used to pray, I used to read the Bible — I have done no crime 
in my heart. I had friends. Why have all forsaken me! — my 
God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me!" Those groans, 
those wailings, come up daily, minghng with how many others, 
a perpetual and sad memorial. When the good Lord shall re- 
quire an account of our stewardship, what shall all and each 
answer ? 

Perhaps it will be inquired how long, how many days or hours, 
was she imprisoned in these confined limits? For years! In 
another part of the cellar were other small closets, only better, 
because higher through the entire length, into one of which she 


by turns was transferred, so as to afford opportunity for fresh 
whitewashing, etc. 

Saugus. December 24. Thermometer below zero; drove 
to the poorhouse; was conducted to the master's family-room 
by himself; walls garnished with handcuffs and chains, not less 
than five pairs of the former; did not inquire how or on whom 
appHed; thirteen pauper inmates; one insane man; one woman 
insane; one idiotic man; asked to see them; the two men were 
shortly led in; appeared pretty decent and comfortable. Re- 
quested to see the other insane subject; was denied decidedly; 
urged the request, and finally secured a reluctant assent. Was 
led through an outer passage into a lower room, occupied by 
the paupers; crowded; not neat; ascended a rather low flight 
of stairs upon an open entry, through the floor of which was 
introduced a stove-pipe, carried along a jew feet, about six inches 
above the floor, through which it was reconveyed below. From 
this entry opens a room of moderate size, having a sashed win- 
dow; floor, I think, painted; apartment entirely unfurnished; 
no chair, table, nor bed ; neither, what is seldom missing, a bundle 
of straw or lock of hay; cold, very cold; the first movement of 
my conductor was to throw open a window, a measure impera- 
tively necessary for those who entered. On the floor sat a woman, 
her limbs immovably contracted, so that the knees were brought 
upward to the chin; the face was concealed; the head rested on 
the folded arms. For clothing she appeared to have been fur- 
nished with fragments of many discharged garments. These 
were folded about her, yet they little benefited her, if one might 
judge by the constant shuddering which almost convulsed her 
poor crippled frame. Woful was this scene. Language is 
feeble to record the misery she was suffering and had suffered. 
In reply to my inquiry if she could not change her position, I 
was answered by the master in the negative, and told that the 
contraction of limbs was occasioned by '* neglect and exposure 
in former years," but since she had been crazy, and before she 
fell under the charge, as I inferred, of her present guardians. 
Poor wretch! she, like many others, was an example of what 
humanity becomes when the temple of reason falls in ruins, 
leaving the mortal part to injury and neglect, and showing how 
much can be endured of privation, expK)sure, and disease with- 
out extinguishing the lamp of Hfe. 

Passing out, the man pointed to a something, revealed to 
more than one sense, which he called **her bed; and we throw 

some blankets over her at night." Possibly this is done; others, 
like myself, might be pardoned a doubt if they could have seen 
all I saw and heard abroad all I heard. The bed, so called, 
was about three feet long, and from a half to three-quarters of 
a yard wide; of old ticking or tow cloth was the case; the con- 
tents might have been a jull handful of hay or straw. My at- 
tendant's exclamations on my leaving the house were emphatic, 
and can hardly be repeated. 

The above case recalls another of equal neglect or abuse. 
Asking my way to the almshouse in Berkeley, which had been 
repeatedly spoken of as greatly neglected, I was answered as 
to the direction, and informed that there were ''plenty of insane 
people and idiots there." "Well taken care of?" "Oh, well 
enough for such sort of creatures!" "Any violently insane?" 
"Yes, my sister's son is there, — a real tiger. I kept him here at 
my house awhile, but it was too much trouble to go on: so I car- 
ried him there." "Is he comfortably provided for?" "Well 
enough." "Has he decent clothes?" "Good enough; wouldn't 
wear them if he had more." "Food?" "Good enough; good 
enough for him." "One more question, — has he the comfort 
of a fire?" "Fire! fire, indeed! what does a crazy man need 
of fire? Red-hot iron wants fire as much as he!" And such 
are sincerely the ideas of not a few persons in regard to the actual 
wants of the insane. Less regarded than the lowest brutes. 
No wonder they sink even lower. 

Ipswich. Have visited the prison three several times; vis- 
ited the almshouse once. In the latter are several cases of in- 
sanity; three especially distressing, situated in a miserable out- 
building, detached from the family-house, and confined in stalls 
or pens; three individuals, one of whom is apparently very in- 
sensible to the deplorable circumstances which surround him, 
and perhaps not likely to comprehend privations or benefits. 
Not so the person directly opposite to him, who looks up wildly, 
anxiously by turns, through those strong bars. Cheerless sight! 
strange companionship for the mind flitting and coming by turns 
to some perception of persons and things. He, too, is one of the 
returned incurables. His history is a sad one. I have not had all 
the particulars, but it ^hows distinctly what the most prosper- 
ous and affluent may come to be. I understand his connections 
are excellent and respectable; his natural abilities in youth were 
superior. He removed from Essex County to Albany, and was 
established there as the editor of a popular newspaper. In 


course of time he was chosen a senator for that section of the 
State, and of course was [ ? ] a judge in the Court of Errors. 

Vicissitudes followed, and insanity closed the scene. He was 
conveyed to Worcester, after a considerable period, either to 
give place to some new patient or because the county objected 
to the continued expense, he, being declared incurable, was re- 
moved to Salem jail, thence to Ipswich jail; associated with the 
prisoners there, partaking the same food, and clad in like ap- 
parel. After a time the town complained of the expense of keep- 
ing him in jail. It was cheaper in the almshouse. To the alms- 
house he was conveyed, and there perhaps must abide. How 
sad a fate! I found him in a quiet state, though at times was 
told that he is greatly excited. What wonder, with such a com- 
panion before him, such cruel scenes within! I perceived 
in him some litde confusion as I paused before the stall against 
the bars of which he was leaning. He was not so lost to propri- 
ety but that a little disorder of the bed-clothes, etc., embarrassed 
him. I passed on, but he asked, in a moment, earnestly, *'Is the 
lady gone — gone quite away?" I returned. He gazed a mo- 
ment without answering my inquiry if he wished to see me. 
*'And have you, too, lost all your dear friends?" Perhaps my 
mourning apparel excited his inquiry. ''Not all." "Have you 
any dear father and mother to love you?" and then he sighed 
and then laughed and traversed the limited stall. Immediately 
adjacent to this stall was one occupied by a simple girl, who was 
''put there to be out of harm's way." A cruel lot for this priva- 
tion of a sound mind. A madman on the one hand, not so much 
separated as to secure decency; another almost opposite, and 
no screen. I do not know how it is argued that mad persons 
and idiots may be dealt with as if no spark of recollection ever 
lights up the mind. The observation and experience of those 
who have had charge of hospitals show opposite conclusions. 

Violence and severity do but exasperate the insane: the only 
availing influence is kindness and firmness. It is amazing what 
these will produce. How many examples might illustrate this 
position! I refer to one recently exhibited in Barre. The town 
paupers are disposed of annually to some family who, for a 
stipulated sum, agree to take charge of them. One of them, a 
young woman, was shown to me well clothed, neat, quiet, and 
employed at needlework. Is it possible that this is the same 
being who, but last year, was a raving mad woman, exhibiting 
every degree of violence in action and speech; a very tigress 


wrought to fury; caged, chained, beaten, loaded with injuries, 
and exhibiting the passions which an iron rule might be expected 
to stimulate and sustain. It is the same person. Another 
family hold her in charge who better understand human nature 
and human influences. She is no longer chained, caged, and 
beaten; but, if excited, a pair of mittens drawn over the hands 
secures from mischief. Where will she be next year after the 
annual sale ? 

It is not the insane subject alone who illustrates the power 
of the all-prevaihng law of kindness. A poor idiotic young 
man, a year or two since, used to follow me at times through 
the prison as I was distributing books and papers. At first he 
appeared totally stupid, but cheerful expressions, a smile, a 
trifling gift, seemed gradually to light up the void temple of 
the intellect, and by slow degrees some faint images of thought 
passed before the mental vision. He would ask for books, though 
he could not read. I indulged his fancy, and he would appear 
to experience delight in examining them, and kept them with 
a singular care. If I read the Bible, he was reverently, wonder- 
ingly attentive; if I talked, he Hstened with a half-conscious 
aspect. One morning I passed more hurriedly than usual, and 
did not speak particularly to him. ''Me, me, me a book." I 
returned. ''Good morning. Jemmy: so you will have a book 
to-day ? Well, keep it carefully." Suddenly turning aside, he took 
the bread brought for his breakfast, and, passing it with a hur- 
ried earnestness through the bars of his iron door, "Here's bread, 
ain't you hungry?" Never may I forget the tone and grateful 
affectionate aspect of that poor idiot. How much might we 
do to bring back or restore the mind if we but knew how to touch 
the instrument with a skilful hand! 

My first visit to Ipswich prison was in March, 1842. The 
day was cold and stormy. The turnkey very obligingly con- 
ducted me through the various departments. Pausing before 
the iron door of a room in the jail, he said: "We have here a 
crazy man whose case seems hard; for he has sense enough to 
know he is in a prison and associated with prisoners. He was 
a physician in this county, and was educated at Cambridge, 
I believe. It was there or at one of the New England colleges. 
Should you Hke to see him?" I objected that it might be un- 
>\'«lcome to the sufferer, but, urged, went in. The apartment 
was very much out of order, neglected, and unclean. There 
was no fire. It had been forgotten amidst the press of other 


duties. A man, a prisoner waiting trial, was sitting near a bed 
where the insane man lay, rolled in dirty blankets. The turnkey 
told him my name; and he broke forth into a most touching 
appeal that I would procure his liberation by prompt applica- 
tion to the highest State authorities. I soon retired, but com- 
municated his condition to an official person before leaving the 
town, in the hope he might be rendered more comfortable. Shortly 
I received from this insane person, through my esteemed friend, 
Dr. Bell, several letters, from which I venture to make a few 
extracts. They are written from Ipswich, where is the general 
county receptacle for insane persons. I may remark that he 
has at different times been under skilful treatment, both at Charles- 
town and Worcester; but being, long since, pronounced incura- 
ble, and his property being expended, he became chargeable 
to the town or county, and was removed, first to Salem jail, 
thence to that at Ipswich by the desire of the high sheriff, who 
requested the commissioners to remove him to Ipswich as a 
more retired spot, where he would be less likely to cause dis- 
turbance. In his paroxysms of violence, his shouts and turbu- 
lence disturb a whole neighborhood. These still occur. I give 
the extracts literally: "Respected lady, since your heavenly visit 
my time has passed in perfect quietude, and for the last week 
I have been entirely alone. The room has been cleansed and 
whitewashed, and is now quite decent. I have read your books 
and papers with pleasure and profit, and retain them subject 
to your order. You say, in your note, others shall be sent if 
desired, and if any particular subject has interest it shall be 
procured. Your kindness is felt and highly appreciated," etc. 
In another letter he writes, '^You express confidence that I have 
self-control and self-respect. I have, and, were I free and in 
good circumstances, could command as much as any man." 
In a third he says, ''Your kind note, with more books and papers, 
were received on the 8th, and I immediately addressed to you let- 
ter superscribed to Dr. Bell; but, having discovered the letters 
on your seal, I suppose them the initials of your name, and now 
address you directly," etc. 

The original letters may be seen. I have produced these 
extracts, and stated facts of personal history, in order that a judg- 
ment may be formed from few of many examples as to the just- 
ness of incarcerating lunatics in all and every stage of insanity, 
for an indefinite period or for life, in dreary prisons, and in con- 
nection with every class of criminals who may be lodged succes- 


sively under the same roof, and in the same apartments. I 
have shown, from two examples, to what condition men may 
be brought, not through crime, but misfortune, and that mis- 
fortune embracing the heaviest calamity to which human nature 
is exposed. In the touching language of Scripture may these 
captives cry out: ''Have pity upon me! Have pity upon me! 
for the hand of the Lord hath smitten me." ''My kinsfolk have 
failed, and my own famiHar friend hath forgotten me." 

The last visit to the Ipswich prison was the third week in De- 
cember. Twenty-two insane persons and idiots: general con- 
dition gradually improved within the last year. All suffer for 
want of air and exercise. The turnkey, while disposed to dis- 
charge kindly the duties of his office, is so crowded with busi- 
ness as to be positively unable to give any but the most general 
attention to the insane department. Some of the subjects are 
invariably confined in small dreary cells, insufficiently warmed 
and ventilated. Here one sees them traversing the narrow dens 
with ceaseless rapidity, or dashing from side to side Hke caged 
tigers, perfectly furious, through the invariable condition of 
unalleviated confinement. The case of one simple boy is pe- 
culiarly hard. Dec. 6, 1841, he was committed to the house of 
correction, East Cambridge, from Charlestown, as an insane 
or idiotic boy. He was unoffending, and competent to perform 
a variety of light labors under direction, and was often allowed 
a good deal of freedom in the open air. Sept. 6, 1842, he was 
directed to pull some weeds (which indulgence his harmless 
disposition permitted) without the prison walls, merely, I believe, 
for the sake of giving him a little employment. He escaped, 
it was thought, rather through sudden waywardness than any 
distinct purpose. From that time nothing was heard of him 
till in the latter part of December, while at Ipswich, in the com- 
mon room, occupied by a portion of the lunatics not furiously 
mad, I heard some one say, "I know her, I know her," and with 
a joyous laugh John hastened toward me. "I'm so glad to see 
you, so glad to see you! I can't stay here long: I want to go out," 
etc. It seems he had wandered to Salem, and was committed 
as an insane or idiot boy. I cannot but assert that most of 
the idiotic subjects in the prisons in Massachusetts are unjustly 
committed, being wholly incapable of doing harm, and none 
manifesting any disposition either to injure others or to exercise 
mischievous propensities. I ask an investigation into this sub- 
ject for the sake of many whose association with prisoners and 


criminals, and also with persons in almost every stage of insan- 
ity, is as useless and unnecessary as it is cruel and ill-judged. 
If it were proper, I might place in your hands a volume, rather 
than give a page, illustrating these premises. 

Sudbury. First week in September last I directed my way 
to the poor-farm there. Approaching, as I supposed, that place, 
all uncertainty vanished as to which, of several dwelHngs in 
view, the course should be directed. The terrible screams and 
imprecations, impure language and amazing blasphemies, of a 
maniac, now, as often heretofore, indicated the place sought 
after. I know not how to proceed The English language 
affords no combinations fit for describing the condition of the 
unhappy wretch there confined. In a stall, built under a wood- 
shed on the road, was a naked man, defiled with filth, furiously 
tossing through the bars and about the cage portions of straw 
(the only furnishing of his prison) already trampled to chaff. 
The mass of filth within diffused wide abroad the most noisome 
stench. I have never witnessed paroxysms of madness so ap- 
palling: it seemed as if the ancient doctrine of the possession of 
demons was here illustrated. I hastened to the house over- 
whelmed with horror. The mistress informed me that ten days 
since he had been brought from Worcester Hospital, where the 
town did not choose any longer to meet the expenses of main- 
taining him; that he had been ''dreadful noisy and dangerous 
to go near" ever since. It was hard work to give him food at 
any rate; for what was not immediately dashed at those who 
carried it was cast down upon the festering mass within. ''He's 
a dreadful care; worse than all the people and work on the 
farm beside." "Have you any other insane persons?" "Yes: 
this man's sister has been crazy here for several years. She 
does nothing but take on about him; and maybe she'll grow as 
bad as he." I went into the adjoining room to see this unhappy 
creature. In a low chair, wearing an air of deepest despondence, 
sat a female no longer young; her hair fell uncombed upon her 
shoulders; her whole air revealed woe, unmitigated woe. She 
regarded me coldly and uneasily. I spoke a few words of sym- 
pathy and kindness. She fixed her gaze for a few moments 
steadily upon me, then grasping my hand, and bursting into a 
passionate flood of tears, repeatedly kissed it, exclaiming in a 
voice broken by sobs: "Oh, my poor brother, my poor brother. 
Hark, hear him, hear him!" then, relapsing into apathetic calm- 
ness, she neither spoke nor moved; but the tears again flowed 


fast as I went away. I avoided passing the maniac's cage; 
but there, with strange curiosity and eager exclamations, were 
gathered, at a safe distance, the children of the establishment, 
little boys and girls, receiving their early lessons in hardness 
of heart and vice; but the demoralizing influences were not con- 
fined to children. 

The same day revealed two scenes of extreme exposure and 
unjustifiable neglect, such as I could not have supposed the 
whole New England States could furnish. 

Wayland. Visited the almshouse. There, as in Sudbury, 
caged in a wood-shed, and also jtdly exposed upon the public 
road, was seen a man at that time less violent, but equally de- 
based by exposure and irritation. He then wore a portion of 
clothing, though the mistress remarked that he was ''more likely 
to be naked than not"; and added that he was "less noisy than 
usual." I spoke to him, but received no answer. A wild, 
strange gaze, and impatient movement of the hand, motioned 
us away. He refused to speak, rejected food, and wrapped over 
his head a torn coverlet. Want of accommodations for the 
imperative calls of nature had converted the cage into a place of 
utter offence. "My husband cleans him out once a week or 
so; but it's a hard matter to master him sometimes. He does 
better since the last time he was broken in." I learnt that the 
confinement and cold together had so affected his limbs that he 
was often powerless to rise. "You see him," said my conduc- 
tress, "in his best state." His best state/ What, then, was the 
worst ? 

Westford. Not many miles from Wayland is a sad spec* 
tacle; was told by the family who kept the poorhouse that 
they had twenty-six paupers, one idiot, one simple, and one 
insane, an incurable case from Worcester Hospital. I requested 
to see her, but was answered that she "wasn't fit to be seen. 
She was naked, and made so much trouble they did not know 
how to get along." I hesitated but a moment. I must see her, 
I said. I cannot adopt descriptions of the condition of the in- 
sane secondarily. What I assert for fact, I must see for my- 
self. On this I was conducted above stairs into an apartment of 
decent size, pleasant aspect from abroad, and tolerably comfort- 
able in its general appearance ; but the inmates — grant I may 
never look upon another such scene! A young woman, whose 
person was partially covered with portions of a blanket, sat 
upon the floor; her hair dishevelled; her naked arms crossed 


languidly over the breast; a distracted, unsteady eye and low, 
murmuring voice betraying both mental and physical disquiet. 
About the waist was a chain, the extremity of which was fastened 
into the wall of the house. As I entered, she raised her eyes, 
blushed, moved uneasily, endeavoring at the same time to draw 
about her the insufficient fragments of the blanket. I knelt 
beside her and asked if she did not wish to be dressed. ''Yes, 
I want some clothes." ''But you'll tear 'em all up, you know 
you will," interposed her attendant. "No, I won't, I won't tear 
them off"; and she tried to rise, but the waist-encircling chain 
threw her back, and she did not renew the effort, but, bursting 
into a wild, shrill laugh, pointed to it, exclaiming, "See there, 
see there, nice clothes!" Hot tears might not dissolve that iron 
bondage, imposed, to all appearance, most needlessly. As I 
left the room, the poor creature said, "I want my gown." The 
response from the attendant might have roused to indignation 
one not dispossessed of reason and owning self-control. 

Groton, A few rods removed from the poorhouse is a wooden 
building upon the roadside, constructed of heavy board and 
plank. It contains one room, unfurnished, except so far as a 
bundle of straw constitutes furnishing. There is no window, 
save an opening half the size of a sash, and closed by a board 
shutter. In one corner is some brick-work surrounding an iron 
stove, which in cold weather serves for warming the rooni. The 
occupant pf this dreary abode is a young man, who has been 
declared incurably insane. He can move a measured distance 
in his prison; that is, so far as a strong, heavy chain, depend- 
ing from an iron collar which invests his neck permits. In fine 
weather — and it was pleasant when I was there in June last — 
the door is thrown open, at once giving admission to light and 
air, and affording some little variety to the soHtary in watching 
the passers-by. But that portion of the year which allows of 
open doors is not the chiefest part; and it may be conceived, 
without drafting much on the imagination, what is the condi- 
tion of one who for days and weeks and months sits in darkness 
and alone, without employment, without object. It may be 
supposed that paroxysms of frenzy are often exhibited, and that 
the tranquil state is rare in comparison with that which incites 
to violence. This, I was told, is the fact. 

I may here remark that severe measures, in enforcing rule, 
have in many places been openly revealed. I have not seen 
chastisement administered by stripes, and in but few instances 

have I seen the rods and whips, but I have seen blows inflicted, 
both passionately and repeatedly. 

I have been asked if I have investigated the causes of insan- 
ity. I have not; but I have been told that this most calamitous 
overthrow of reason often is the result of a life of sin : it is some- 
times, but rarely, added, they must take the consequences; they 
deserve no better care. Shall man be more just than God, 
he who causes his sun and refreshing rains and Hfe-giving influ- 
ence to fall ahke on the good and the evil? Is not the total 
wreck of reason, a state of distraction, and the loss of all that 
makes life cherished a retribution sufficiently heavy, without 
adding to consequences so appalling every indignity that can 
bring still lower the wretched sufferer? Have pity upon those 
who, while they were supposed to He hid in secret sins, "have 
been scattered under a dark veil of forgetfulness, over whom is 
spread a heavy night, and who unto themselves are more griev- 
ous than the darkness." 

Fitchburg. In November visited the almshouse: inquired the 
number of insane. Was answered, several, but two in close 
confinement, one idiotic subject. Saw an insane woman in a 
dreary, neglected apartment, unemployed and alone. Idleness 
and soHtude weaken, it is said, the sane mind; much more must 
it hasten the downfall of that which is already trembling at the 
foundations. From this apartment I was conducted to an out- 
building, a portion of which was enclosed, so as to unite shelter, 
confinement, and solitude. The first space was a sort of entry, 
in which was a window; beyond, a close partition with doors 
indicated where was the insane man I had wished to see. He 
had been returned from the hospital as incurable. I asked if 
he was violent or dangerous. ''No." " Is he clothed ? " "Yes." 
"Why keep him shut in this close confinement?" "Oh, my hus- 
band is afraid he'll run away; then the overseers won't like it. 
He'll get to Worcester, and then the town will have money to 
pay." "He must come out; I wish to see him." The opened 
door disclosed a squalid place, dark, and furnished with straw. 
The crazy man raised himself slowly from the floor upon which 
he was couched, and with unsteady steps came toward me. His 
look was feeble and sad, but calm and gentle. 

"Give me those books, oh, give me those books," and with 
trembling eagerness he reached for some books I had carried in 
my hand. "Do give them to me, I want them," said he with 
kindling earnestness. "You could not use them, friend; you 


cannot see them." ''Oh, give them to me, do"; and he raised his 
hand and bent a little forward, lowering his voice, "77/ pick 
a little hole in the plank and let in some of God^s light.^^ 

The master came round. "Why cannot you take this man 
abroad to work on the farm ? He is harmless. Air and exercise 
will help to recover him." The answer was in substance the 
same as that first given; but he added, ''I've been talking with 
our overseers, and I proposed getting from the blacksmith an 
iron collar and chain, then I can have him out by the house." 
An iron collar and chain! "Yes, I had a cousin up in Vermont, 
crazy as a wildcat, and I got a collar made for him, and he liked 
ity "Liked it! how did he manifest his pleasure?" "Why, he 
left off trying to run away. I kept the almshouse at Groton. 
There was a man there from the hospital. I built an out-house 
for him, and the blacksmith made him an iron collar and chain, 
so we had him fast, and the overseers approved it, and" — I 
here interrupted him. " I have seen that poor creature at Groton 
in his doubly iron bondage, and you must allow me to say that, 
as I understand you remain but one year in the same place, and 
you may find insane subjects in all, I am confident, if overseers 
permit such a multiplication of collars and chains, the public 
will not long sanction such barbarities ; but, if you had at Groton 
any argument for this measure in the violent state of the unfortu- 
nate subject, how can you justify such treatment of a person quiet 
and not dangerous, as is this poor man? I beg you to forbear 
the chains, and treat him as you yourself would like to be treated 
in like fallen circumstances." 

Bolton. Late in December, 1842; thermometer 4° above zero; 
visited the almshouse; neat and comfortable establishment; 
two insane women, one in the house associated with the family, 
the other "^w/ oj doors.'^ The day following was expected a 
young man from Worcester Hospital, incurably insane. Fears 
were expressed of finding him "dreadful hard to manage." I 
asked to see the subject who was "out of doors"; and, follow- 
ing the mistress of the house through the deep snow, shudder- 
ing and benumbed by the piercing cold, several hundred yards, 
we came in rear of the barn to a small building, which might 
have afforded a degree of comfortable shelter, but it did riot. 
About two-thirds of the interior was filled with wood and peat. 
The other third was divided into two parts; one about six feet 
square contained a cylinder stove, in which was no fire, the rusty 
pipe seeming to threaten, in its decay, either suffocation by smoke, 


which by and by we nearly realized, or conflagration of the build- 
ing, together with destruction of its poor crazy inmate. My 
companion uttered an exclamation at finding no fire, and busied 
herself to light one; while I explored, as the deficient Hght per- 
mitted, the cage which occupied the undescribed portion of the 
building. "Oh, I'm so cold, so cold," was uttered in plaintive 
tones by a woman within the cage; ''oh, so cold, so cold!" And 
well might she be cold. The stout, hardy driver of the sleigh 
had declared 'twas too hard for a man to stand the wind and 
snow that day, yet here was a woman caged and imprisoned 
without fire or clothes, not naked, indeed, for one thin cotton 
garment partly covered her, and part of a blanket was gathered 
about the shoulders. There she stood, shivering in that dreary 
place; the gray locks falling in disorder about the face gave a 
wild expression to the pallid features. Untended and comfort- 
less, she might call aloud, none could hear. She might die, and 
there be none to close the eye. But death would have been 
a blessing here. ''Well, you shall have a fire, Axey. I've been 
so busy getting ready for the funeral!" One of the paupers 
lay dead. "Oh, I want some clothes," rejoined the lunatic; 
"I'm so cold." "Well, Axey, you shall have some as soon as 
the children come from school; I've had so much to do." "I 
want to go out, do let me out!" "Yes, as soon as I get time," 
answered the respondent. "Why do you keep her here?" I 
asked. "She appears harmless and quiet." "Well, I mean 
to take her up to the house pretty soon. The people that used 
to have care here kept her shut up all the year; but it is cold here, 
and we take her to the house in hard weather. The only danger 
is her running away. I've been meaning to this good while." 
The poor creature listened eagerly: "Oh, I won't run away. Do 
take me out!" "Well, I will in a few days." Now the smoke 
from the kindling fire became so dense that a new anxiety struck 
the captive. "Oh, I shall smother, I'm afraid. Don't fill that 
up, I'm afraid." Pretty soon I moved to go away. "Stop, did 
you walk?" "No." "Did you ride?" "Yes." "Do take 
me with you, do, I'm so cold. Do you know my sisters? They 
live in this town. I want to see them so much. Do let me 
go"; and, shivering with eagerness to get out, as with the biting 
cold, she rapidly tried the bars of the cage. 

The mistress seemed a kind person. Her tones and manner 
to the lunatic were kind; but how difficult to unite all the cares 
of her household, and neglect none! Here was not wilful abuse, 


but great, very great suffering through undesigned negligence. 
We need an asylum for this class, the incurable, where conflict- 
ing duties shall not admit of such examples of privations and 

One is continually amazed at the tenacity of life in these per- 
sons. In conditions that wring the heart to behold, it is hard 
to comprehend that days rather than years should not conclude 
the measure of their griefs and miseries. Picture her condi- 
tion! Place yourselves in that dreary cage, remote from the 
inhabited dwelling, alone by day and by night, without fire, with- 
out clothes, except when remembered; without object or employ- 
ment; weeks and months passing on in drear succession, not 
a blank, but with keen life to suffering; with kindred, but deserted 
by them; and you shall not lose the memory of that time when 
they loved you, and you in turn loved them, but now no act 
or voice of kindness makes sunshine in the heart. Has fancy 
realized this to you? It may be the state of some of those you 
cherish! Who shall be sure his own hearthstone shall not be so 
desolate? Nay, who shall say his own mountain stands strong, 
his lamp of reason shall not go out in darkness! To how many 
has this become a heart-rending reality. If for selfish ends only, 
should not effectual legislation here interpose? 

Shelhurne. November last. I found no poorhouse, and but 
few paupers. These were distributed in private families. I had 
heard, before visiting this place, of the bad condition of a lunatic 
pauper. The case seemed to be pretty well known throughout 
the county. Receiving a direction by which I might find him, 
I reached a house of most respectable appearance, everything 
without and within indicating abundance and prosperity. Con- 
cluding I must have mistaken my way, I prudently inquired 
where the insane person might be found. I was readily answered, 
"Here." I desired to see him; and, after some difficulties raised 
and set aside, I was conducted into the yard, where was a small 
building of rough boards imperfectly joined. Through these 
crevices was admitted what portion of heaven's light and air 
was allowed by man to his fellow-man. This shanty or shell 
enclosing a cage might have been eight or ten feet square. I 
think it did not exceed. A narrow passage within allowed to 
pass in front of the cage. It was very cold. The air within 
was burdened with the most noisome vapors, and desolation with 
misery seemed here to have settled their abode. All was still, 
save now and then a low groan. The person who conducted 


me tried, with a stick, to rouse the inmate. I entreated her to 
desist, the twihght of the place making it difficult to discern any- 
thing within the cage. There at last I saw a human being, 
partially extended, cast upon his back, amidst a mass of filth, 
the sole furnishing, whether for comfort or necessity, which the 
place afforded. There he lay, ghastly, with upturned, glazed 
eyes and fixed gaze, heavy breathings, interrupted only by faint 
groans, which seemed symptomatic of an approaching termina- 
tion of his sufferings. Not so thought the mistress. "He has 
all sorts of ways. He'll soon rouse up and be noisy enough. 
He'll scream and beat about the place like any wild beast half 
the time." ''And cannot you make him more comfortable? 
Can he not have some clean, dry place and a fire?" ''As for 
clean, it will do no good. He's cleaned out now and then; but 
what's the use for such a creature? His own brother tried him 
once, but got sick enough of the bargain." "But a fire: there 
is space even here for a small box stove." "If he had a fire, he'd 
only pull off his clothes, so it's no use." "But you say your hus- 
band takes care of him, and he is shut in here in almost total 
darkness, so that seems a less evil than that he should He there 
to perish in that horrible condition." I made no impression. 
It was plain that to keep him securely confined from escape 
was the chief object. "How do you give him his food? I see 
no means for introducing anything here." "Oh," pointing to 
the floor, "one of the bars is cut shorter there: we push it through 
there." "There? Impossible! You cannot do that. You 
would not treat your lowest dumb animals with that disregard 
to decency r^ "As for what he eats or where he eats, it makes 
no difference to him. He'd as soon swallow one thing as another." 
Newton. It was a cold morning in October last that I visited 
the almshouse. The building itself is ill-adapted for the pur- 
poses to which it is appropriated. The town, I understand, 
have in consideration a more advantageous location, and pro- 
pose to erect more commodious dweUings. The mistress of 
the house informed me that they had several insane inmates, 
some of them very bad. In reply to my request to see them 
she objected "that they were not fit; they were not cleaned; 
that they w^re very crazy," etc. Urging my request more de- 
cidedly, she said they should be got ready if I would wait. 
Still no order was given which would hasten my object. I re- 
sumed the subject, when, with manifest unwillingness, she called 
to a colored man, a cripple, who, with several others of the poor, 


was employed in the yard, to go and get a woman up, naming 
her. I waited some time at the kitchen door to see what all 
this was to produce. The man slowly proceeded to the remote 
part of the wood-shed where, part being divided from the open 
space, were two small rooms, in the outer of which he slept and 
lived, as I understood. There was his furniture, and there his 
charge. Opening into this room only was the second, which 
was occupied by a woman, not old, and furiously mad. It con- 
tained a wooden bunk filled with filthy straw, the room itself 
a counterpart to the lodging-place. Inexpressibly disgusting 
and loathsome was all; but the inmate herself was even more 
horribly repelHng. She rushed out, as far as the chains would 
allow, almost in a state of nudity, exposed to a dozen persons, 
and vociferating at the top of her voice, pouring forth such a 
flood of indecent language as might corrupt even Newgate. I 
entreated the man, who was still there, to go out and close the 
door. He refused. That was his place! Sick, horror-struck, 
and almost incapable of retreating, I gained the outer air, and 
hastened to see the other subject, to remove from a scene so 
outraging all decency and humanity. In the apartment over 
that last described was a crazy man, I was told. I ascended 
the stairs in the woodshed, and, passing through a small room, 
stood at the entrance of the one occupied, — occupied with what? 
The furniture was a wooden box or bunk containing straw, and 
something I was told was a man, — I could not tell, as likely it 
might have been a wild animal, — half-buried in the offensive 
mass that made his bed, his countenance concealed by long, 
tangled hair and unshorn beard. He lay sleeping. Filth, neg- 
lect, and misery reigned there. I begged he might not be roused. 
If sleep could visit a wretch so forlorn, how merciless to break 
the slumber! Protruding from the foot of the box was — nay, 
it could not be the feet; yet from these stumps, these maimed 
members, were swinging chains, fastened to the side of the build- 
ing. I descended. The master of the house briefly stated the 
history of these two victims of wretchedness. The old man had 
been crazy about twenty years. As, till within a late period, 
the town had owned no farm for the poor, this man, with others, 
had been annually put up at auction. I hope there is nothing 
offensive in the idea of these annual sales of old men and women, 
— the sick, the infirm, and the helpless, the middle-aged, and 
children. Why should we not sell people as well as otherwise 
blot out human rights : it is only being consistent, surely not worse 


than chaining and caging naked lunatics upon public roads 
or burying them in closets and cellars! But, as I was saying, 
the crazy man was annually sold to some new master; and a 
few winters since, being kept in an out-house, the people within, 
being warmed and clothed, ''did not reckon how cold it was"; 
and so his feet froze. Were chains now the more necessary? 
He cannot run. But he might crawl forth, and in his transports 
of frenzy ''do some damage." 

That young woman,— her lot is most appalling. Who shall 
dare describe it ? Who shall have courage or hardihood to write 
her history? That young woman was the child of respectable, 
hard-working parents. The girl became insane. The father, 
a farmer, with small means from a narrow income had placed 
her at the State Hospital. There, said my informer, she remained 
as long as he could by any means pay her expenses. Then, 
then only, he resigned her to the care of the town, to those who 
are, in the eye of the law, the guardians of the poor and needy. 
She was placed with the other town paupers, and given in 
charge to a man. I assert boldly, as truly, that I have given 
but a, Jaint representation of what she was, and what was her 
condition as I saw her last autumn. Written language is weak 
to declare it. 

Could we in fancy place ourselves in the situation of some 
of these poor wretches, bereft of reason, deserted of friends, 
hopeless, troubles without, and more dreary troubles within, 
overwhelming the wreck of the mind as "a wide breaking in 
of the waters," — how should we, as the terrible illusion was cast 
off, not only offer the thank-offering of prayer, that so mighty 
a destruction had not overwhelmed our mental nature, but as 
an offering more acceptable devote ourselves to alleviate that 
state from which we are so mercifully spared ? 

It may not appear much more credible than the fact above 
stated, that a few months since a young woman in a state of 
complete insanity was confined entirely naked in a pen or stall 
in a barn. There, unfurnished with clothes, without bed and 
without fire, she was left— but not alone. Profligate men and 
idle boys had access to the den, whenever curiosity or vulgarity 
prompted. She is now removed into the house with other paupers ; 
and for this humanizing benefit she was indebted to the remon- 
strances, in the first instance, of an insane man. 

Another town now owns a poorhouse, which I visited, and am 
glad to testify to the present comfortable state of the inmates; 


but there the only provision the house affords for an insane per- 
son, should one, as is not improbable, be conveyed there, is a 
closet in the cellar, formed by the arch upon which the chimney 
rests. This has a close door, not only securing the prisoners, 
but excluding what of light and pure air might else find 

Abuses assuredly cannot always or altogether be guarded 
against; but, if in the civil and social relations all shall have '' done 
what they could," no ampler justification will be demanded 
at the great tribunal. 

Of the dangers and mischiefs sometimes following the loca- 
tion of insane persons in our almshouses, I will record but one 
more example. In Worcester has for several years resided a 
young woman, a lunatic pauper of decent life and respectable 
family. I have seen her as she usually appeared, listless and 
silent, almost or quite sunk into a state of dementia, sitting one 
amidst the family, ''but not of them." A few weeks since, re- 
visiting that almshouse, judge my horror and amazement to see 
her negligently bearing in her arms a young infant, of which I 
was told she was the unconscious parent. Who was the father, 
none could or would declare. DisquaHfied for the performance 
of maternal cares and duties, regarding the helpless little creat- 
ure with a perplexed or indifferent gaze, she sat a silent, but, 
oh, how eloquent, a pleader for the protection of others of her 
neglected and outraged sex! Details of that black story would 
not strengthen the cause. Needs it a mightier plea than the 
sight of that forlorn creature and her wailing infant ? Poor little 
child, more than orphan from birth, in this unfriendly world ! 
A demented mother, a father on whom the sun might blush 
or refuse to shine 1 

Men of Massachusetts, I beg, I implore, I demand pity and 
protection for these of my suffering, outraged sex. Fathers, 
husbands, brothers, I would supplicate you for this boon; but 
what do I say? I dishonor you, divest you at once of Chris- 
tianity and humanity, does this appeal imply distrust. If 
it comes burdened with a doubt of your righteousness in this 
legislation, then blot it out; while I declare confidence in your 
honor, not less than your humanity. Here you will put away 
the cold, calculating spirit of selfishness and self-seeking; lay 
off the armor of local strife and political opposition; here and 
now, for once, forgetful of the earthly and perishable, come 
up to these halls and consecrate them with one heart and one 


mind to works of righteousness and just judgment. Become 
the benefactors of your race, the just guardians of the solemn 
rights you hold in trust. Raise up the fallen, succor the deso- 
late, restore the outcast, defend the helpless, and for your eternal 
and great reward receive the benediction, ''Well done, good 
and faithful servants, become rulers over many things!" 

But, gentlemen, I do not come to quicken your sensibiHties 
into short-lived action, to pour forth passionate exclamation, nor 
yet to move your indignation against those whose misfortune, 
not fault, it surely is to hold in charge these poor demented creat- 
ures, and whose whole of domestic economy or prison discipline 
is absolutely overthrown by such proximity of conflicting cir- 
cumstances and opposite conditions of mind and character. 
Allow me to illustrate this position by a few examples: it were 
easy to produce hundreds. 

The master of one of the best-regulated almshouses, namely, 
that of Plymouth, where every arrangement shows that the com- 
fort of the sick, the aged, and the infirm, is suitably cared for, 
and the amendment of the unworthy is studied and advanced, 
said, as we stood opposite a latticed stall where was confined 
a madman, that the hours of the day were few when the whole 
household was not distracted from employment by screams 
and turbulent stampings, and every form of violence which 
the voice or muscular force could produce. This unfortunate 
being was one of the ''returned incurables," since whose last 
admission to the almshouse they were no longer secure of peace 
for the aged or decency for the young. It was morally impos- 
sible to do justice to the sane and insane in such improper vi- 
cinity to each other. The conviction is continually deepened 
that hospitals are the only places where insane persons can be 
at once humanely and properly controlled. Poorhouses con- 
verted into madhouses cease to effect the purposes for which 
they were estabhshed, and instead of being asylums for the aged, 
the homeless, and the friendless, and places of refuge for orphaned 
or neglected childhood, are transformed into perpetual bedlams. 

This crying evil and abuse of institutions is not confined to 
our almshouses. The warden of a populous prison near this 
metropolis, populous not with criminals only, but with the in- 
sane in almost every stage of insanity, and the idiotic in descend- 
ing states from silly and simple, to helpless and speechless, has 
declared that, since their admission under the Revised Statutes of 
1S35, PS-gc 3^2) ''the prison has often more resembled the in- 


fernal regions than any place on earth!" And, what with the 
excitement inevitably produced by the crowded state of the 
prisons and multiplying causes, not subject to much modifica- 
tion, there has been neither peace nor order one hour of the 
twenty-four. If ten were quiet, the residue were probably rav- 
ing. Almost without interval might, and must, these be heard, 
blaspheming and furious, and to the last degree impure and in- 
decent, uttering language from which the base and the profli- 
gate have turned shuddering aside and the abandoned have 
shrunk abashed. I myself, with many beside, can bear sad 
witness to these things. 

Such cases of transcendent madness have not been few in 
this prison. Admission for a portion of them, not already hav- 
ing been discharged as incurable from the State Hospital, has 
been sought with importunity and pressed with obstinate per- 
severance, often without success or advantage; and it has not 
been till application has followed application, and petition 
succeeded petition, that the judge of probate, absolutely wearied 
by the "continual coming," has sometimes granted warrants 
for removal. It cannot be overlooked that in this delay or re- 
fusal was more of just dehberation than hardness; for it is well 
known that, in the present crowded state of the hospital, every 
new patient displaces one who has for a longer or a shorter time 
received the benefit of that noble institution. 

A few months since, thi-ough exceeding effort, an inmate of 
this prison, whose contaminating influence for two years had 
been the dread and curse of all persons who came within her 
sphere, whether incidentally or compelled by imprisonment, 
or by daily duty, was removed to Worcester. She had set at 
defiance all efforts for controUing the contaminating violence of 
her excited passions; every variety of blasphemous expression, 
every form of polluting phraseology, was poured forth in tor- 
rents, sweeping away every decent thought, and giving reality 
to that blackness of darkness which, it is said, might convert a 
heaven into a hell. There, day after day, month after month, 
were the warden and his own immediate household; the subor- 
dinate officials, and casual visitors; young women detained as 
witnesses; men, women, and children, waiting trial or under 
sentence; debtors and criminals; the neighborhood, and almost 
the whole town, subjected to this monstrous offence — and no 
help I the law permitted her there, and there she remained till 
July last, when, after an application to the judge so determined 


that all refusal was refused, a warrant was granted for her trans- 
fer to the State Hospital. J saw her there two weeks since. What 
a change! Decent, orderly, neatly dressed, capable of light em- 
ployment, partaking with others her daily meals. Decorously, 
and without any manifestation of passion, moving about, not 
a rational woman by any means, but no longer a nuisance, rend- 
ing off her garments and tainting the moral atmosphere with 
every pollution, she exhibited how much could be done for the 
most unsettled and apparently the most hopeless cases by being 
placed in a situation adapted to the wants and necessities of her 
condition. Transformed from a very Tisiphone, she is now 
a controllable woman. But this most wonderful change may 
not be lasting. She is Hable to be returned to the prison, as have 
been others, and then no question but in a short time like scenes 
will distract and torment all in a vicinity so much to be dreaded. 

Already has been transferred from Worcester to Concord a 
furious man, last July conveyed to the hospital, from Cambridge, 
whose violence is second only to that of the subject above de- 
scribed. While our Revised Statutes permit the incarcera- 
tion of madmen and madwomen, epileptics and idiots, in pris- 
ons, all responsible officers should, in ordinary justice, be ex- 
onerated from obligation to maintain prison discipline. And 
the fact is conclusive, if the injustice to prison officers is great, 
it is equally great toward prisoners; an additional penalty to 
a legal sentence pronounced in a court of justice, which might, 
we should think, in all the prisons we have visited, serve as a 
sound plea for false imprisonment. If reform is intended to be 
united with punishment, there never was a greater absurdity 
than to look for moral restoration under such circumstances; 
and, if that is left out of view, we know no rendering of the law 
which sanctions such a cruel and oppressive aggravation of the 
circumstances of imprisonment as to expose these prisoners day 
and night to the indescribable horrors of such association. 

The greatest evils in regard to the insane and idiots in the 
prisons of this Commonwealth are found at Ipswich and Cam- 
bridge, and distinguish these places only, as I believe, because 
the numbers are larger, being more than twenty in each. Ips- 
wich has the advantage over Cambridge in having fewer furious 
subjects, and in the construction of the buildings, though these 
are so bad as to have afforded cause for presentment by the 
grand jury some time since. It is said that the new County 
House, in progress of building, will meet the exigencies of the case. 


If it is meant that the wing in the new prison, to be appropri- 
ated to the insane, will provide accommodation for all the insane 
and idiotic paupers in the county, I can only say that it could 
receive no more than can be gathered in the three towns of Salem, 
Newburyport, and Ipswich, supposing these are to be re- 
moved, there being in Ipswich twenty-two in the prison and 
eight in the almshouse; in Salem almshouse, seventeen uniformly 
crazy, and two part of the time deranged; and in that of New- 
buryport eleven, including idiots. Here at once are sixty. The 
returns of 1842 exhibit an aggregate of one hundred and thirty- 
five. Provision is made in the new prison for fifty-seven of 
this class, leaving seventy-eight unprovided for, except in the 
almshouses. From such a fate, so far as Danvers, Saugus, East 
Bradford, and some other towns in the county reveal conditions 
of insane subjects, we pray they may be exempt. 

I have the verbal and written testimony of many officers of 
this Commonwealth, who are respectable alike for their integ- 
rity and the fidelity with which they discharge their official duties, 
and whose opinions, based on experience, are entitled to con- 
sideration, that the occupation of prisons for the detention of 
lunatics and of idiots is, under all circumstances, an evil, sub- 
versive alike of good order, strict discipHne, and good morals. I 
transcribe a few passages which will place this mischief in its 
true light. The sheriff of Plymouth County writes as follows: 
''I am decidedly of the opinion that the county jail is a very 
improper place for lunatics and idiots. The last summer its 
bad effects were fully realized here, not only by the prisoners 
in jail, but the disturbance extended to the inhabitants dwell- 
ing in the neighborhood. A foreigner was sentenced by a jus- 
tice of the peace to thirty days' confinement in the house of 
correction. He was to all appearance a lunatic or madman. 
He destroyed every article in his room, even to his wearing ap- 
parel, his noise and disturbance was incessant for hours, day 
and night. I consider prisons places for the safe keeping of 
prisoners, and all these are equally entitled to humane treat- 
ment from their keepers, without regard to the cause of com- 
mitment. We have in jails no conveniences to make the situ- 
ation of lunatics and idiots much more decent than would be 
necessary for the brute creation, and impossible to prevent the 
disturbance of the inmates under the same roof." 

In relation to the confinement of the insane in prisons the 
sheriff of Hampshire County writes as follows: — 


"I concur fully in the sentiments entertained by you in rela- 
tion to this unwise, not to say inhuman, provision of our law (see 
Rev. Stat. 382) authorizing the commitment of lunatics to our 
jails and houses of correction. Our jails preclude occupation, and 
our houses of correction cannot admit of that variety of pursuit, 
and its requisite supervision, so indispensable to these unfortu- 
nates. Indeed, this feature of our law seems to me a relic of that 
ancient barbarism which regarded misfortune as a crime, and 
those bereft of reason as also bereft of all sensibility, as having 
forfeited not only all title to compassion, but to humanity, and 
consigned them without a tear of sympathy, or twinge of re- 
morse, or even a suspicion of injustice, to the companionship of 
the vicious, the custody of the coarse and ignorant, and the horrors 
of the hopeless dungeon. I cannot persuade myself that any- 
thing more than a motion by any member of our Legislature is 
necessary to effect an immediate repeal of this odious provision." 

The sheriff of Berkshire says, conclusively, that ''jails and 
houses of correction cannot be so managed as to render them 
suitable places of confinement for that unfortunate class of per- 
sons who are the subjects of your inquiries, and who, never 
having violated the law, should not be ranked with felons or 
confined within the same walls with them. Jailers and over- 
seers of houses of correction, whenever well qualified for the 
management of criminals, do not usually possess those pecuHar 
quahfications required in those to whom should be intrusted the 
care of lunatics." 

A letter from the surgeon and physician of the Prison Hos- 
pital at Cambridge, whose observation and experience have laid 
the foundation of his opinions, and who hence has a title to speak 
with authority, affords the following views: "On this subject, it 
seems to me, there can be but one opinion. No one can be more 
impressed than I am with the great injustice done to the insane 
by confining them in jails and houses of correction. It must be 
revolting to the better feeUngs of every one to see the innocent 
and unfortunate insane occupying apartments with or consigned 
to those occupied by the criminal. Some of the insane are con- 
scious of the circumstances in which they are placed, and feel 
the degradation. They exclaim sometimes in their ravings, and 
sometimes in their lucid intervals, ''What have / done that X 
must be shut up in jail?" and "Why do you not let me out?" 
This state of things unquestionably retards the recovery of the 
few who do recover their reason under such circumstances, and 


may render those permanently insane who under other circum- 
stances might have been restored to their right mind. There is 
also in our jails very Httle opportunity for the classification of the 
insane. The quiet and orderly must in many cases occupy the 
same rooms vi^ith the restless and noisy, — another great hin- 
drance to recovery. 

^^ Injustice is also done to the convicts: it is certainly very wrong 
that they should be doomed day after day and night after night 
to Hsten to the ravings of madmen and madwomen. This is 
a kind of punishment that is not recognized by our statutes, 
and is what the criminal ought not to be called upon to undergo. 
The confinement of the criminal and of the insane in the same 
building is subversive of that good order and discipline which 
should be observed in every well-regulated prison. I do most 
sincerely hope that more permanent provision will be made for 
the pauper insane by the State, either to restore Worcester In- 
sane Asylum to what it was originally designed to be or else 
make some just appropriation for the benefit of this very unfortu- 
nate class of our 'fellow-beings.'" 

From the efficient sheriff of Middlesex County I have a let- 
ter upon this subject, from which I make such extracts as my 
limits permit: "I do not consider it right, just, or humane, to 
hold for safe keeping, in the county jails and houses of correc- 
tion, persons classing as lunatics or idiots. Our prisons are not 
constructed with a view to the proper accommodation of this 
class of persons. Their interior arrangements are such as to 
render it very difficult, if not impossible, to extend to such per- 
sons that care and constant oversight which their peculiarly 
unfortunate condition absolutely demands; and, besides, the 
occupation of prisons for lunatics is unquestionably subversive of 
discipline, comfort, and good order. Prisoners are thereby sub- 
jected to unjust aggravation of necessary confinement by being 
exposed to an almost constant disquiet from the restless or rav- 
ing lunatic. You inquire whether 'it may not justly be said 
that the qualifications for wardenship, or for the offices of over- 
seer, do not usually embrace qualifications for the management 
of lunatics, whether regarded as curable or incurably lost to 
reason,' and also whether 'the government of jails and houses 
of correction for the detention or punishment of offenders and 
criminals can suitably be united with the government and dis- 
cipline fitted for the most unfortunate and friendless of the human 
race; namely, pauper lunatics and idiots, a class not condemned 


by the laws, and I must add not mercifully protected by them. * 
The first of the preceding questions I answer in the affirmative, 
the last negatively. ^^ [Here follow similar testimonies from the 
warden of the Cambridge prison, the sheriff of Dukes County, 
the warden of the prison at South Boston, and the master of 
the Plymouth almshouse.] 

It is not few, but many, it is not a part, but the whole, who 
bear unqualified testimony to this evil. A voice strong and deep 
comes up from every almshouse and prison in Massachusetts 
where the insane are or have been protesting against such evils 
as have been illustrated in the preceding pages. 

Gentlemen, I commit to you this sacred cause. Your action 
upon this subject will affect the present and future condition of 
hundreds and of thousands. 

In this legislation, as in all things, may you exercise that ''wis- 
dom which is the breath of the power of God." 

Respectfully submitted, 

D. L. DIX. 

85 Mt. Vernon Street, Boston. 
January, 1843. 

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