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have not the slightest doubt that he performed his painful duty with the conscientiousness which we may thankfully feel is the characteristic of all Englishmen placed in his high position. But there are differences of temperament even among her Majesty's judges; and those whose duties oblige them to attend our criminal courts cannot but be aware that the fate of prisoners depends, in large measure, on the greater or less severity of the view taken of their cases by the powerful functionary whose duty it is to instruct the jury. Humanur 'est errare. :-İ remain, Sir, faithfully yours,
THE WRITER OF SCENES FROM A SILENT WORLD.”
LEPERS AT THE CAPE: WANTED, A FATHER DAMIEN.
CORRESPONDENCE AND EDITORIAL COMMENTS.
The exposure of the horrors of the Robben Island Lepers in our last issue has been promptly followed by such a general outburst of sympathy with the sufferers, and of indignation at their treatment, as has rarely been elicited by any magazine article. With scarcely an exception, the entire press has taken up the case of the Cape Lepers, and demanded that the reproach which their present miserable condition offers to our national character for humanity should be at once effaced. While attempts have been made to minimise in some of its details the terrible picture drawn by our correspondent, his statement has received ample corroboration, from persons of sufficient authority, of the truth of its worst features. It is, however, satisfactory to learn that almost simultaneously with the appearance of our article, a Report has been published by the Cape Leper Committee, and that its adoption has been moved in the Colonial Parliament. A correspondent of the British Medical Journal, September 14, writes as follows :
"The anonymous writer of the article on the ‘Lepers at the Cape,' in this month's number of 'Blackwood's Magazine,' has certainly brought before the public notice something of the lives of misery of those afflicted with leprosy in one of our colonies, of whose progress and rapid civilisation Englishmen are wont to be so proud. The article is written in a markedly emotional and pathetic tone; but the point of importance is, how much of the description is true when its adventitious details are removed, and whether a state of things such as represented is allowed to exist uninterrupted by the Colonial Government.
“On the whole, the account-judging by what I saw when I visited the island a few months ago is correct. The rotten, tumbling-down wooden sheds are low, and have little or no light-which, taken by itself, may be an advantage, in that it hides something of what might be seen within ; but, nevertheless, it is also a drawback, as it prevents the medical man from being able to examine with anything like accuracy a patient'lying in one of the beds. I found the floor of earth, full of holes, and in places saturated with
the discharges of past generations of lepers ; the atmosphere stifling and offensivo ; complete absence of articles of furniture or decoration, even of china for washing purposes.
“There is no regular system of nursing, patients who are able to be about if they be so well-disposed, attending on those in whom the disease has run to a further stage. Thero aro no forms of amusement, or oven of systematic work, for those who are as yet able to be up. The patients lie during the long hours of the day on the ground, clad in shabby, filthy rags, under what shelter they can find from the blazing southern sun. The only forms of existence which appear at all at home are the myriads of flies, which sometimes cover the exposed parts of the diseased creatures' bodies.
Sights such as these are revolting even to the minds of those well-steeled to the ordinary spectacles of poverty and disease concomitant with modern human existence. No wonder, then, that the reflections of any one visiting Robben Island, with even a vague notion of hospital arrangement and sanitary details, should be enough to stir such a one to attempt something on behalf of its unfortunate inhabitants, the majority of whom are doomed to a life of slow decay through no fault of their own; whose only shadow of hope-however vague that may be—is in the complete death of what remains of their mortal frame, to close for ever fronı their view that awful molecular death which has for years encroached upon their members.
"Some will say, But after all, these creatures are for the most part blacks; and as experience teaches us that they, through the process of modern civilisation, must die off before the civilising force, why should we do more to prolong their existence ? 'As members of a profession whose aim and object. is to preserve the life of all living beings under all circumstances, absolutely impartial as to the exact form or species with which we are brought into contact, our duty is, primarily, to see to the wellbeing of the individual, and, secondarily, to that of the community at large; and this being so, we cannot for one moment accept such a short-sighted thougla possibly patriotic philanthropy. Let us trust that this outcry may arouse some sympathy from the Government, for we must charitably conclude that it has been an oversight and not wanton indifference on the part of those responsible.”
“An Old Cape Reporter ber 7:
writes to South Africa' of Septem
“SIR,—I read with more than ordinary interest the article on the above subject which you last week extracted from ‘ Blackwood's Magazine.' The editor of the famous magazine is, and no wonder, all but incredulous as to the possibility of so 'inhuman and disgraceful a state of things' being permitted 'to exist in any British colony. I can assure him and your readers that the writer in 'Blackwood' has in no way overdrawn the picture of the actual state of things that exists at Robben Island, and I speak from knowledge gained in 1883, when I visited the island as shorthand writer to a Select Committee appointed by the Cape Government to inquire into the origin and spread of leprosy in the colony. The state of things then existent is exactly as it is described in the article from which you quote. For years the Cape Government has contemplated the removal of these wretched beings to the mainland, and even purchased an estate, Tokay, on which to locate them. The Committee, in their report, so far as I can recollect, strongly
recommended the removal of the lepers to some spot other than the bleak and barren one at which they were then located, and their complete segregation and separation from others. This report has never been acted upon, although Dr Biccard, then Medical Superintendent of the island, a recognised authority on loprosy, strongly favoured the views of the Committee. Why has the report never been acted upon ? Simply because year after year successive Colonial Treasurers-General have declared themselves unable to find the funds necessary to carry out an improvement that in humanity's name is loudly called for. Now, when the colony is described on all hands as prosperous, and when, too, public attention has been so forcibly drawn to the matter, may we hope something will be done to put a stop to what is a crying disgrace to the humanity and the civilisation of the rulers of the Cape Colony !
“One word, however, as to the writer's sub-heading,. 'Wanted, a second Father Damien.' All honour that can be paid sliould be paid to that noble and devoted man, who fell a martyr to his devotion to duty; but the selfdenying labours for many years of the Rev. Canon Baken of Kalk Bay, late chaplain at Robben Island, should not be forgotten ; and he has, I am sure from personal observation and the manner in which the poor wretches whose lot he does his utmost to mitigate, a worthy successor in the Rev. H. M. Wilsher, the present chaplain at that ‘speck in the ocean' where is congregated 80 much of human misery and suffering. --Faithfully yours,
“ AN OLD CAPE REPORTER." LONDON, 21 September 1889.
Similar_ testimony is offered by Dr J. W. Mathew, a former member of the Capo Parliament, who gives the following description of the Leper settlement, as quoted in the · Evening News and Post,' September 2 :
"Leaving Dr Biccard with the ladies, I walked on to inspect the lepers and the buildings in which they were housed. Here I saw human beings kennelled worse than dogs. In a long low, thatched shed some forty poor creatures were stowed away. Both varieties of the disease, the tubercular and anästhetic, could there be studied. Some I saw with their faces shiny, discoloured, and swollen ; others with both hands and feet dropping off joint by joint. One man especially attracted my attention, whose nose, eyes, tongue, and cheeks had all rotted away, and who, with a voice piping ‘shrill and cracked, could barely make himself understood. He was a horrid loathsome mass of putrid humanity. One fact, however, struck me at the time—that neither this man nor any of the other inmates complained of bodily pain. The building in which they were housed was such that I could not help picturing in my mind how, a spark igniting the thatch and a fire taking place in this hovel, the poor wretches, sixty per cent of whom were unable to leave their beds, would in their helplessness be burned alive, possibly only too glad to find surcease of sorrow, at least in this world. .
“On making inquiries I learned more horrible facts. Among others, I 'found the bathroom and the kitchen to be identical, one place only being provided for them in which to live, eat, drink, and sleep-the 'wash'or refuse, and almost certainly contaminated food, actually being used to feed the pigs and poultry—and, 'horror on horror's head I'the miserable sufferers themselves would be seen rolling about in sqnalid filth, their clothes soaked and besmeared
with the discharges from their festering sores. No one seemed to have power or inclination to manage them; neglected and forsaken, they were left to the charge of fellow-lepers as helpless as themselves.".
The following extracts from a few of the numberless articles which have appeared on the subject will sufficiently indicate the state of feeling which has been aroused.
« Well may
The Morning Advertiser' says :
the editor of 'Blackwood' preface the article with a note to the effect that 'but for the unquestionable reliability of the writer of this article, we could not have believed that so inhuman and disgraceful a state of things could have been permitted to exist in any British colony.' ... We can only hope that the effect of this very remarkable article will be to quicken public sympathy into bringing some moral pressure to bear on the Government of the Cape to do something more than the bare minimum of official duty by the outcasts of Robben Island. English charity will also, we think, be stirred by this recital of the woes of these poor wretches to do what it can to assist in the work of relieving them."
The Daily News' says :
“Wanted, a second Father Damien,' are the concluding words of a remarkable article in the September number of 'Blackwood.'.. . It is anonymous, but a short head-note contains an editorial assurance as to the writer's perfect good faith. Such an assurance is wanted, for the things related of this colony pass belief in the callousness of men and of Governments.
“Governments can do something, and the Colonial Office will surely use its influence with the authorities at the Cape to find a remedy for the worst horrors which the writer in 'Blackwood' recites. The lives of the island population need not be left without comfort, nor need they be left without hope. . . . All had something to say on the mitigation of suffering, and some even ventured to talk of cure. The article in ‘Blackwood' will have the in, spiriting effect of publicity upon their future labours, and in this, as in other ways, it will nobly serve to continue Father Damien's work."
The Glasgow Herald' says :
"The editor of 'Blackwood's Magazine' answers for the “unquestionable reliability' of the writer of the article. And with these facts before us, we do not need to go to the Sandwich Islands for an outlet for our humane sympathies and philanthropic efforts in the service of man.' Within the pale of the British flag, almost at our own doors—for a voyage to the Cape is a trifle in these days of rapid steaming—there is a field for half-a-dozen Father Damiens. But there is room for more, for an overwhelming weight of public opinion, which shall compel the demolition of these fetid dens, and the provision of all that sanitary science, medical care, and sympathetic attention can do for the unhappy outcasts from civilisation. As it is, the Leper Establishment at the Cape remains a blot not only upon the colony, but upon the fair fame of British philanthropy."
The New York Herald ' says :
“The current number of Blackwood's Magazine' contains a description of an 'island of desolation' and of its leprous inhabitants, which surpasses in appalling interest anything that poet or novelist-and even a Stevensoncould summon from the fanciful world. We transferred it yesterday to our columns, with the permission of the editor of 'Blackwood,' as a most valuable contribution of news, particularly at a time when Father Damien's heroism, and when comment upon leprosy at home and abroad, had become impressive to philanthropists. The descriptions of the prevailing oppressive silence in the horrible wards of an hospital unfit for the lair of wolves; the references to the monotonous talk that on thresholds of death sometimes broke that silence like the sound of a funeral bell'; and the unanswerable indictment of foul neglect and inhuman management by Cape Town authori. ties, clearly demand instant attention from philanthropists in Parliament, or in that wider House of Commons, the great British commonwealth of souls."
In answer to private communicctions which have reached the editor on the subject, he thinks it well to state that the Literature Distribution Board, Kyrle Society (Miss Emma Busk, Hon. Secretary), would receive and consider any applications for books, &c., for the Lepers, if addressed- to 14 Nottingham Place, London, W.