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CITY OF BOSTON.
In Common Council, April 25, 1861.
ORDERED: That Messrs. Ball, Crockett, Huntress, Page, and Pear, with such as the Board of Aldermen may join, be a Committee to investigate the subject of the Petition of John Holton, presented at this meeting. Sent up for concurrence.
J. H. BRADLEY, President.
In Board of Aldermen, April 29, 1861. Concurred, and Aldermen Wilson, Amory, and Peirce were joined.
SILAS PEIRCE, Chairman.
Approved, April 30, 1861.
J. M. WIGHTMAN, Mayor.
CITY OF BOSTON.
In Board of Aldermen, July 29, 1861. The Special Committee, who were directed to investigate certain charges of alleged misconduct preferred by John Holton against Dr. C. A. Walker, the Superintendent of the Boston Lunatic Hospital, having given all parties a long, patient, and full hearing,
That the charges in question have not been substantiated, and that no further action thereon is deemed necessary in the premises. For the Committee,
E. T. WILSON, Chairman.
In Board of Aldermen, July 29, 1861. Read and accepted, and ordered to be printed with the accompanying papers. Sent down for concurrence.
SILAS PEIRCE, Chairman.
THE Joint Special Committee to whom was referred the memorial of John Holton, alleging official misconduct in the Superintendent of the Boston Lunatic Hospital, have attended to the duty assigned them, and respectfully submit the following statement as an Appendix to their report.
The memorial makes grave charges, of a twofold character, against the Superintendent of the Boston Lunatic Hospital. It alleges
1st. That he has treated the patients under his care with gross neglect and and cruelty; and
2d. That he has wasted the city's property in an extravagant manner.
The serious nature of these charges made it the bounden duty of your Conmittee to make their investigation of them careful and thorough, and the Committee would urge upon the attention of the City Council the necessity of constant discrimination. The task of those to whom is committed the care of the insane is not merely heavy, but is peculiar. Against such men, however skilful, humane, and faithful they may be, charges are easily made, and with difficulty refuted.
The treatment of the insane is a new science, the production of modern medical art fostered by the advanced humanity of society. It is an art which the unprofessional man does not readily understand, and about which he may make many and grave mistakes. He knows that it is designed to be humane, but he does not appreciate the fact that it is designed to be disciplinary. He fancies that, in modern institutions, all restraints are to be thrown off, and the patient left at the mercy of his own weak and disordered will. Restraint brings reproach, not merely from patients themselves, but from their families.
The unfortunate inmate has been banished from his own home, because his presence there was intolerable, but the warm sympathy which follows him cannot understand that his safety depends upon discipline, and his cure upon constant care. Firmness may seem harshness, and even the common precautions of diet intolerable. There is often fault finding, and as often thankless
The patient complains, as a matter of course, and others are ready to repeat and support his charges and ravings.
A person is unworthy to hold any trust, public or private, who wantonly squanders, or negligently wastes, the property placed under his control; and the most severe punishment should be meted out to him who, having taken upon himself the care and custody of that unfortunate class of people who become the inmates of our insane retreats, disregards the common dictates of humanity, and treats them with cruelty or even unkindness. Impressed by
these considerations, your Committee pursued their investigation through a number of long sessions, and gave to the Memorialist, his friends and advisers, the fullest opportunity to make their allegations against the Superintendent, and to sustain them by all the proofs which were within the reach of them or the Committee.
The Memorialist was not confined in his evidence or proofs to the charges set forth in his memorial, but he was permitted to take a wider range, and bring evidence of any misconduct or want of qualification in the Superintendent which he chose to allege. Of this opportunity he availed himself in the most ample manner, and was assisted from the beginning to the end of the investigation by legal counsel.
Under the first general charge, that of neglect of, and cruelty to, patients, the Memorialist made but two or three specifications. The neglect alleged consisted in allowing habits of uncleanliness, and the cruelty in confining patients without good cause or reason. Under the charge of waste of the city's property, the specifications were loss of coal from neglect to sift the ashes, and loss of gas by omissions to extinguish the burners at the proper time in the morning. To these allegations the Memorialist added, during the hearing, the charge of intemperance.
In the attempts to support these charges and allegations, the Memorialist offered his own evidence, and that of several other persons, most of whom had been employed in the Hospital for longer or shorter periods.
The Memorialist himself had recently been confined in the institution for about six months, and has instituted an action at law against those by whose agency he supposes his commitment was procured, and against the Superintendent for detaining him in the Institution.
It is a significant fact that no person who had been a patient in the Hospital testified to a single act of unkindness or neglect toward himself, and no person, who had any means of knowledge, to any such act towards his relative or friend. The Memorialist himself admitted that he was kindly treated, and had no cause of complaint personally, while he was an inmate of the institution. Some of the witnesses brought by the Memorialist, and who had been the longest time connected with the Hospital, entirely negatived the charge under consideration, and testified that the Superintendent was uniformly kind and attentive to the patients. Those who gave evidence of a different character, were contradictory one to another, and based their statements upon unreliable sources of information or means of observation.
On the other hand, in the cases specified by the Memorialist and his witnesses as examples of cruelty and neglect, the relatives and friends of the particular patients, those who manifested the deepest solicitude and most tender interest for them, and who frequently visited and watched over them during their residence in the Hospital, voluntarily appeared before your Committee, and not only denied that there was any foundation whatever for complaint against the Superintendent, but expressed a profound sense of gratitude to him for his unvarying kindness and attention to those very patients. And various other gentlemen, justly and honorably distinguished in different walks of life, who have taken an interest in the Hospital, and carefully looked after its management for years, bore willing testimony to the peculiar qualifications of the Superintendent for his place, and to his unremitting and faithful discharge of the duties belonging to it. His gentleness and humanity are understood by all who know him, and we trust he may not be lightly condemned upon vain and unsubstantial accusations. The Committee do not find, upon the best investigation which they have been able to make, that the charge of general and gross neglect of duty to patients, is in the least sustained by the evidence. The condition of the Hospital to the most casual observer fully refutes this.
In regard to the charge of waste of the municipal property, there was no evidence entitled to credit to support it, and it was virtually abandoned by the Memorialist and his Counsel. It is believed that in the case of the public property, and the management of the institution, the Superintendent has been scrupulously prudent and economical.
There was evidence before your Committee, which was introduced with the design of convincing them that the Superintendent had at times used intoxicating drinks to excess. This charge was not made in the Memorial, but was opened, like a masked battery, upon the Superintendent at the hearing. There was no such specification of time, place, or occasion, as would enable bim to meet and disprove this allegation, even if it were not entirely without foundation. No one of the witnesses ever saw him drink any intoxicating liquor, or pretended that he had ever used it in or about the Hospital as a beverage.
They represented only, that on some occasions, when he had been absent in the evening, there were indications on his return of this description; and this evidence came almost entirely from the witnesses who were brought to sustain the charges made in the Memorial, but the Committee heard no evidence upon this subject that should shake the confidence of the public in Doctor Walker's general character for sobriety, or his very able management of the institution.
Your Committee therefore deem it their duty to say, that the investigation has disclosed nothing which, in their judgment, ought to impair the confidence heretofore reposed in the Superintendent.
They believe him to possess qualifications for the office he holds, which are rarely found in one person; and that he has unremittingly devoted himself to the discharge of its duties. He is placed in charge of those who are bereft of reason, and in need of careful medical and moral treatment. Professional attainments of a high order, a humane disposition, a willing, patient, and paternal devotion of his time and of himself to them and their wants, are required of him; and he has, as your Committee believe, fulfilled all these requirements; and they feel impelled to add that the charges brought against him do not appear to them to have originated in motives which they can fully respect.
For the Committee,
E. T. WILSON, Chairman.