The Ashburton Guardian. Magna Est Veritas et Prevalebit. FRIDAY, APRIL 22, 1881. The Wellington Asylum Enquiry.
TOWN EDITION. [J&sMed at 4.30 p.m.]
We have always entertained most adverse views of the wisdom of appointing Royal Commissions, of the manner in which their duties are executed, and of the accompanying expense incurred by the country. To every rule, however, there must be an exception, we have waited expectantly for this in the present instance, and our patience has met with its reward. We allude to the outcome of the Wellington Lunatic Asylum enquiry. Although this enquiry has occupied a great lime, and the evidence taken would fill volumes, still, none will deny its usefulness. To Mr Shaw, who, by his untiring efforts forced upon the Government the necessity for an enquiry of a most searching character as to the conduct, of the Wellington Asylum, is, of course, due the thanks of the whole colony. The motive of his actions may have been of a personal character, but, nevertheless, the fact exists that by his energies he has succeeded in exposing a. state of affairs, which, although they would possibly in the days of the Spanish Inquisition have reflected credit on their originators, in a country laying claim to the title of - Civilisation and Christianity, is a disgrace, the 1
magnitude of which is unutterable. The charges made have been substantiated and show that, instead of being a hospital for the curative treatment of the insane, the Wellington Asylum was nothing more than a prison, its governor having every facility for the gratification of a feeling of petty spite, by the infliction of tortures of a demoniacal character, on any poor victim who incurred his displeasure, possibly in nine out of every ten cases, by some act for which they, owing to their mental deficiences, were totally irresponsible. It is also shown that these tortures in several instances, notably that of the man Hall, who for seven months was kept in a straight jacket, were carried on with the knowledge of the Inspector appointed for the express purpose of inspecting these institutions and exposing the failings in the conduct thereof. A perusal of the evidence rnd of the report of the Commission points, therefore, to three facts—An existing defection in the legislation on the subject ; gross cruelty on the part of the Superintendent ; and, lastly, an entire ignoring of his duties and unpardonable favoritism by Inspector Skae. Taking the first of these, it is shown that the Lunatics Act in its present form is entirely at variance with the end sought to be arrived at. The Inspector is a mere visitor to the various asylums, possessing no power beyond that of writing letters of recommendation to the Colonial Secretary, or of probalionally releasing a patient. It is therefore clear that we had been belter off as regards the public pocket had the inspectorship been vested in unofficial visitors. We at least should have saved the salary of a sinecurist, for as such we regard Inspector Skae’s position under the Act. Of course, we shall have legislation on the subject at the meeting of Parliament, and we hope proper regulations for the gradation and guidance of the officers appointed thereunder will be framed, but, nevertheless, the discredit, in that such regulations were not made long since, exists, and is reflected on the Government of the colony. In reference to the second item, we are glad to see the Government have awakened to a slight sense of their duty, and this so far as to summarily dismiss Mr Whitelaw. Possibly no other course remained open to them after the report of the Commission. We inclined to this opinion, but had hardly expected such promptitude ; in fact their alacrity is refreshing. Mr Whitelaw has since been arrested on a charge of cruelty to the patients under his charge during his of the Asylum, and the'evidence against him is of a most damning character. His irascibility of temperament is no excuse for his actions, and his unfitness for the post he occupied is undoubted. Regarding Dr Skae, his appointment, and the manner in which he has failed to carry out the duties, few and simple as they were, we cannot view the action of the Government with other than disfavor. We can only presume that the effort made in discharging Whitelaw was too great, and the relapse so sudden that it would not permit of any immediate action; they therefore call upon Dr Skae to officially explain upon the subject. In our opinion this is merely farcical. It is shown that he, in his capacity of Inspector, although having no full powers, yet was required to report on the faults of the management of the Wellington Lunatic Asylum, and this at stated intervals. What do we find but that he has displayed a feeling of entire indifference and we cannot see that he has any claim for consideration. If Whitelaw was deserving of dismissal, how much more so is the person condoning his offences. Even were it possible or probable to explain away the dificulties connected therewith, which we fail to see, we have it in evidence that in the appointment of Mr Whitelaw as Superintendent he displayed gross favoritism and abuse of the trust reposed in him. To him was entrusted the duty of appointing a fit and proper person having the necessary qualifications to the post of Superintendent, and what do we find? Knowing, as he admits in his examination, that the proper person would be a medical man, and that special training and experience were most requisite, he appoints Mr Whitelaw on the recommendation of a Lord Kinnaird, whose only knowledge of the fitness of the applicant was “that he had known him ever since he was a boy and as a clerk at a goods station, and subsequently on a passenger station in Scotland.” This is culpable in the extreme, and we cannot but condemn the Government for their misapplication of leniency in the matter.
San Francisco Mail. —We would remind correspondents to the Homo Country that the outward mail via the above route will close at the local Post Office to-morrow. Post Sessional. —Mr Stevens met the Christchurch electors last evening, and received at their hands a vote of confidence. —Mr. Ormond also addressed his constituents at Waipara last evening, and and received a similar tribute of merit from those present. Personal. The death of the Rev. Joseph Fletcher, at Taunton, Somersetshire, England, is announced. The deceased gentleman was 91 years of age, had been 63 years in the Wesleyan ministry, and was the father of the Rev. Joseph Hosmer Fletcher, of Sydney, and formerly of Taranaki. Heartless Parents. —An inquest was held at Oamai-u, yesterday, on the body of a child aged four years, named Lammas, who died suddenly on Tuesday. The verdict was to the effect that death was accelerated by neglect on the part of its parents, and the jury, in cautioning them, said that they had narrowly escaped a charge of manslaughter. Harvest Festival and Gift Auction. —The harvest festival and gift auction in connection with St Mark’s Church, Rakaia, was held yesterday. There was but a small attendance at the church in the afternoon. Rev. W. H. Elton, the late incumbent, read the prayers, the Rev. Mr Chambers read the lessons, and the Rev. Mr Pascoe was the preacher. In the evening an entertainment and gift auction were held,. and were fairly patronised. To Sheepbreeders. The Prairie Farmer (Chicago) estimates that in ten years’ time it will require the fleeces of eighty-four millions of sheep to supply the population of the United States with the wool they require for their home manufactures. At the present time there are about forty millions of sheep in the United States, so that there is a great in- I centive to the sheep-breeders’ industry. '
Tbey Object. —A good deal of dissatisfaction is expressed at Mr Watt being appointed Resident Magistrate at Oamaru, and it is proposed to petition Government against his transfer thereto. Trouble Among “The Talent.” — Messrs Drake and Snider, two well-known bookmakers, have laid an information under the Vagrunh Act, against Messrs Hobb and Goodwin, for using the totalisator at the late meeting of the C J C. The case will be heard at Christchurch on Monday next. The Census Returns. —Regarding the privacy of the census papers, a correspondent writes to the Taranaki Herald that he found papers forwarded to the office amongst some goods sent to carpenters who were employed in building a house for him near Stratford. Every one of them was complete, no names being cut off, and they belonged to the census taken in 1867. Ten were found by him. Most of them he destroyed. Two are now in the possession of the editor of the Herald.
The English and American Mails. —The City of New York, with the London mails of the 24th ult., left San Francisco for Auckland on Friday, the 10th instant, one day after due sailing date. She is duo in Auckland on Monday week, and, if she arrives to time, the mails will be brought on to Wellington direct from the Manakau. The P.M. s.s. Zealandia, with the March colonial mails, arrived at San Francisco on the 20th instant, one day in advance of time-table date. Encourag bment to Locallndustries — The “ Gazette ” issued yesterday contains a notice (hat a bonus of LSOO will be given for the first twenty-five ton cheese (produced in a factory working on the American principle, and to which factory any farmer, subject to certain conditions, may send his milk), whhich shall be exported from New Zealand and sold at such prices as shall show that the articles are of fair quality. A bonus of LSOO will .also be given on the first 100 lons of fresh meat exported froih New Zealand in vessels fitted with refrigerating machinery. Such meat must have been collected in a refrigerating chamber in this colony, and must have been landed in Europe in a sound marketable condition.
Sensible Remarks. —ln receiving "a deputation of noblemen and gentlemen from the county of Tyrone, the LordLieutenant of Ireland recently made the following sensible remarks:—“ When assenting to receive the deputation I made one stipulation, which I must always make in future when about to receive a deputation of any sort, namely—that it must be public, and reporters present. I me;.lion this inasmuch as a short time ago, at the request of some gentlemen who attended as a deputation, wo dispensed with the presence of reporters, and the result was that what I said was very much misrepresented, and distorted versions got abroad which were very disagreeable to me, and might bear bad results.”
Canadian Pacific Railway. —Home papers contain particulars of the ratification by the Canadian Parliament of the contract entered into between the Dominion Government and a syndicate of English, French, and American capitalists for the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway. The significance of this intelligence is, perhaps, hardly sufficiently realised in England. To Australia and New Zealand the new railway will mean nothing short of a revolution in their export trade By the projected line it will be possible to carry dispatches from London to Esquimalt, the naval station on the Pacific, in thirteen or fourteen days, and New Zealand will be readied in less time than it has ever been yet. The Year’s Takings. —The Wellington correspondent of the Press telegraphed yesterday: —“Although the complete accounts for last financial year will not be ready much before the end of the month, it is understood that a pretty close knowledge is now arrived at as to the result of the year’s operations. The figures will be found somewhat as follows : —Customs, about L 1,307,000, or L 57.000 above the estimate ; scamps, L 142,700, or L 2,700 above the estimate ; railways, about L 829,000, or Llll,OOO below the estimate ; postal, L 151,000, or L 6,000 above the estimate ; telegraph, about L 72.000, or LB,OOO short; judicial, about L 57,000, or L 3,000 under ; land transfer and deeds registry, L 38,700, or LG,700 to the good ; land sales, about L 290,000, or 99,000 on the right side. These figures, of course, must not be regarded as official, or anything beyond an approximation, but they will probably not be found far wide of the truth.”
A Peculiar Case. Tha Appellate Court in Parip has just quashed a sentence of three months’ imprisonment for indecency, passed on a man named Didier, it being proved that the defendant was a somnambulist, and irresponsible in that state for his acts. A doctor ser t him to sleep in an ante-chamber of the Court by simply looking fixedly at him, and then, x-etiring to a distance, pronounced his name, whereupon Didier rushed towards him, despite the efforts of the turnkeys to prevent him. In the presence of the judges, moreover, he wrote a letter, with his eyes shut, from dictation, and a hu-ge needle was stuck into his neck without his betraying any signs of sensibility. A fit of somnambulism, it was stated, sometimes comes on him while walking out of doors, and when in an hospital he was observed copying music, having no recollection of it on awaking. The doctors there also noticed his automatic submission. The Court accordingly ruled that ho was not morally or legally responsible for his actions.