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the habit of seeing them constantly, and I do not think them otherwise, till they become very aged.”-Do these witnesses prove the nuisance ?
Dissenters of England ! What say you to the united testimony of these seven credible witnesses ? Adding it to that of the nine Clergymen set forth in our last Letter, can you resist the combined force of such a mass of evidence ? Can
avoid the conclusion, however reluctantly you may come to it, that Mr. Mackinnon is practising a most serious deception on the British public? Sixteen credible witnesses, -all speaking, not from hearsay, but from personal knowledge, not to opinion, but to fact,-stand forth, and, with one voice, negative the fundamental position of that gentleman's Report! They successively tell the Hon. Member to his face, that there is not one word of truth in the representation which he makes of the effect of sepulture in large towns and cities; while he, in return, virtually tells them that he believes not one syllable they have uttered ! How will you decide? Can you question the veracity of the clerical gentlemen, or that of the other body of respectable persons, all fully competent, from personal experience, to speak to the point? They have uttered the truth, or they have not. If they have, Mr. Mackinnon's Report is a falsification ; if they have not, how shall we account for such unanimity in an attempt at public delusion? But there is no mistake: the truth of their views is confirmed by common experience. The allegation of Mr. Mackinnon runs counter to the conjoint testimony of both England and Scotland. In all the towns and cities of the United Kingdom, burial-grounds are to be found, appertaining both to the Church and to Dissenters, the bulk of which are closely surrounded with the habitations of man. Now, we contend that, generally, no evil has been found to result from this state of things. The experience of all concerned has been uniformly found to corroborate the evidence of the sixteen witnesses whose testimony has already been recited. We take our stand upon the rock of a nation's experience through many ages, and contend that Mr. Mackinnon's theory is without foundation in truth. In our next Letter, we shall deal with the evidence of his “Gen
men at the head of the Medical and Surgical Professions." September 19, 1842.
MEDICAL AND SURGICAL EVIDENCE EXAMINED.
Mere conjecture, in the case before you, is not to be taken because it is that of a medical practitioner. We must disregard every assertion not founded on facts, although it be clothed in the diction of science. In a matter so serious, every intelligent physician will hesitate to advance a single step in the absence of statistics carefully collected and thoroughly sifted. Statistics on this subject, however, we have none; and, therefore, the evidence of the Medical witnesses before Mr. Mackinnon's Committee must be taken for what it is worth, when weighed against universal experience. Dr. Lonsdale, of Edinburgh, has stated our principle in the spirit of Medical Philosophy, and laid down a safe rule of judgment. In a letter to Mr. Mackinnon, dated April 24, 1842, that eminent physician says: “ The observations made in London, Glasgow, and Liverpool, would tend to the belief that disease is engendered by too close approximation to public Cemeteries; but the statistical information which we possess is too scanty to guarantee our stating that the health of individuals is necessarily affected by living in the vicinity of burial grounds."
To this enlightened testimony we shall add another, that of W. M. Meyler, Esq., of Gloucester, who, in writing to Mr. Mackinnon, after referring to the crowded state of the burialgrounds there, previously to their late enlargement, proceeds thus:-"I am not aware, however, that in the city of Gloucester any contagious disease has been traced to the opening of graves ; nor would observation allow me to hazard more than a conjecture, that the occurrence of small pox, measles, scarlatina, and other contagious diseases, may, and does sometimes, arise in towns therefrom. But with these surmises only on my mind, unsupported by facts, I should still say, that, where burial-grounds are sufficiently extensive for the use of parishes, there would be no necessity for the removal to Cemeteries out of towns." In these two passages, we have all that can be either wisely or safely said on the subject. Whatever goes beyond this is folly, or quackery, or something worse: We will now review the Medical Evidence contained in the Report; and, in doing this, we must steel ourselves against the influence of mere names. We respectfully ask for facts, instead of opinions,
1. Dr. G. F. COLLIER, on being asked whether interment in towns be not one of the causes of increased mortality in towns, replied, “ No, I am not prepared to say that: I think that the causes of fever are extremely various; that would be a question of statistics, and I could not answer it."
2. Sir JAMES FELLOWES, M.D., seems to have been very desirous to aid the Chairman, but he could not get beyond declaring “it is highly probable it is productive, very often, of disease.” For such probability, however, he assigns no grounds. Sir R. H. Inglis put the following questions :
“Q. 1938. Have you ever been able to ascertain, professionally, the origin of any disease, either in the case of an individual, or in masses, as connected with the neighbourhood of places of interment?—No, I am not prepared with any cases ; but I should say, as a general principle, it is extremely prejudicial to health.
“1939. You are not able to state any specific instance in which disease has been generated ?-No, I am not prepared to state any particular case.
What mysteries are here ! “A general principle,” unsupported by “ any particular case !" What is meant by such lan
What is the value of such evidence? Does modern science know anything of principles in the utter absence of facts? This distinguished witness discoursed to the Committee about the plague and pestilential fevers at Seville and Malaga, which led to another similar question, similarly answered.
“1942. Have you any circumstances which enable you to say that any one of those fevers has arisen from the immediate contact of the living subject with the effluvia arising from the dead?—No, I am not prepared with any case."
It is difficult to conceive of anything more useless, or more ridiculous, than such evidence. Is Sir James, who is a magistrate of Hampshire, prepared to commit every boor who is brought before the Bench, on the general charge of crimes and misdemeanors, while the witnesses speak only of the probability
of guilt, but can swear to no “particular case?" If so, we pity those who are within his jurisdiction !
3. Sir BENJAMIN BRODIE, Bart., at the outset of his examination, confessed (Q. 2910) that he had no practical knowledge upon the subject.” This will be readily believed, since that eminent surgeon is found declaring, that town interments would be safe, “if you could bury twenty or thirty feet deep.” Sir R. H. Inglis fairly speared Sir Benjamin, by putting the same question that he had to Sir James Fellowes.
“Q. 2919. In the course of your own immense professional practice, can you state to the Committee any instance in which you have traced fatal effects from the escape of gases from the decomposition of human bodies in churchyards or elsewhere? -No, I do not know that I could point to a particular case ; my attention has not been particularly directed to these subjects.”
4. JAMES COPLAND, Esq., M.D., gives a lengthened and interesting lecture upon fever generally, but states not one fact which bears upon the point. He proves nothing; he lays before us a statement rather of his medical faith than of his medical knowledge. “I believe,” says he, (Q. 2659,) " that the health of large towns is influenced by four or five particular circumstances; the first, and probably one of the most important, is the burial of the dead in large towns." Here is belief without a single fact, and probability without one solitary reason! Beyond this article of Dr. Copland's creed, we have nothing but a narrative of a person who caught fever from “a rush of foul air.”
5. JORDAN Roche Lynch, Esq., M.D., followed in the footsteps of Dr. Copland. He, too, descanted with dignity on the varieties and causes of fever. He mentions a churchyard in St. Bartholomew's, about ten feet wide, by about forty or fifty feet long. This is the Pauper Burial-ground; and one of the parochial authorities told the Doctor, " that it had been three times filled, to his own recollection.” . This was, of course, a random saying; besides, we are not told the age of the party. The fact asserted might be true, and yet no impropriety have occurred. Dr. Lynch, who visited the “court abutting on this pauper burial-ground,” says: “I find all the back-rooms jutting over this ground, having the cesspools, and the ash-holes, and privies
floating over in this court. I should state, when we go up to see a patient, we have to pick our footsteps through the excrementitious matter flowing down; the persons living in this part of the metropolis are in the habit of emptying their chamberpots into this churchyard, and the smell is horrible.” Here there is a mixture of monstrous abominations, which, of course, ought to be immediately put an end to; the existing law provides a ready remedy. But any number of cuch cases as this would not suffice to establish the principle of Mr. Mackinnon's Bill, nor would they call for the remedy which that Bill provides. This is a common, or rather an uncommon nuisance, which may and ought to be put down to-morrow, by the intervention of the local authorities, enforcing the existing law. It has, in reality, nothing to do with the main subject.
6. Dr. Holt Yates does not carry the point a hair's-breadth further. When asked whether the present system of interment be not prejudicial, he replies, “I think there can be no doubt of it." Proof he assigns none; and, after answers to three more questions of no moment, he retires.
7. Mr. John CHARLES ATKINSON, surgeon, proceeds with a tragical narrative of a grave-digger, who accidentally pierced a coffin with a pickaxe, and inhaled a rush of gas, which proved fatal first to him, then to his medical attendant, and lastly to the servant of the latter. Such is the sum of this gentleman's evidence, which, after all, has no bearing whatever on the principle of the Bill. The same things might have occurred in a cemetery on Dartmoor, or in a dissecting-room, or anywhere else.
8. Mr. George Dorkin Lane, surgeon, residing in Wilsonstreet, Drury-lane, had lived there upwards of seventeen years, in a house abutting on the burial-ground, and had attended many cases of illness in the courts adjoining. His answers to the main points serve only to demonstrate the absurdity of the Mackinnon theory.
“Q. 2306. Have you observed that the inhabitants of houses within the vicinity of a churchyard are more unhealthy than the inhabitants of other houses ?-I have had a great deal of practice in those courts for seventeen years, and there is a great deal of illness there; the back of Crown-court incloses the burialground.”