A Cursory Inquiry Into Some Of The
Principle Causes Of Mortality Among Children

With a View to Assist in Ameliorating the State of the Rising Generation, in Health, Morals, and Happiness, To Which Is Added an Account of the Universal Dispensary for Sick Indigent Children

By John Bunnell Davis, M.D.

Licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians, Senior Physician of the London Dispensary, and Physician of the Universal Dispensary for Sick Children. -- Author of Observations on "Precipitate Burial and the Diagnosis of Death." -- "The Ancient and Modern History of Nice." -- "A Scientific and Popular View of the Bilious Remitting Fever of Walcheren," &c. &c.

Printed For The Author,
And Sold By Thomas and George Underwood,
32, Fleet Street,

The first page of the original Davis paper. The quality of this image is poor due to overexposure of the microfilm, which was borrowed from NLM.

Among the excellent charities which public benevolence has recently established, hardly one appears entitled to more consideration than the Universal Dispensary for Children, which has for its object, the amelioration of the state of the Infant Poor of this great metropolis, by providing for them advice and medicines when afflicted with disease; and by disseminating among the poor in general, instructions for the domestic management of their offspring, in order to the better preservation of their health. In contemplating the basis of this philanthropic work, it cannot be unimportant to have any of those causes elucidated, which tend to destroy the human species, by impeding and often counteracting that physical developement and organization of the body which compose the elements of a good constitution, and are so essential to the due performance of its functions. The prevention of an evil is ever more important, than its mere removal when it has once appeared; and there exists no reason why an institution like the Universal Dispensary for the Infant Poor, should confine its object and advantages to the administering present aid to the afflicted, without at the same time directing its ulterior inquiry to the state of the rising generation in general, as far at least as health is concerned, examining their pursuits and habits either where they spring from a bad bias in the mode of domestic rearing in common use, or from a still more fatal course of abandonment or neglect. Such an enquiry appears essential to give permanence and stability to the institution; for it must be obvious, that when the causes of the evils which we deplore are ascertained, their effects can be with the greater certainty reduced or remedied.

It may be a speculation as rational as it is sound, to enquire how far the proper treatment of the body through the different stages of life, tends to unfold and establish those energies, the exercise of which, in the human character, is so identified with public utility. It will not be disputed that an attention to every public and private duty, whether of moral or religious obligation, has a strong influence upon the happiness of individuals; and that therefore a probably source of national good is pointed out, by tracing to what extent the affections of man may be regulated, by the correction in early life of those bodily ailments that interfere with and disturb the regularity of intellectual operation, which, if just, and guided by the light of education, are the easiest and most effectual antidote to vicious propensities.

No sufficient examination has been yet made, to ascertain to what degree the advantages of medicine can reach in this respect, and what are all the possible blessings we derive from a state of health permanently established, and a sound constitution; nor can perhaps so desirable an object be accomplished, without multiplied and extended opportunities for observation during the several ages which man has to pass through.

It is true that even by the most ignorant, the value of health is appreciated, in a general point of view, and well enough understood. But the philosopher or statesman, who takes a wider view of its salutary influence, will attribute to the health of individuals, the well being, prosperity, and stability of empires: health and strength being, in fact, as necessary to execute, as sound reason and sober judgment are to plan schemes for the benefit of the community. Every thing therefore that promotes and preserves the health of children -- that procures them good constitutions, strength and vigour -- will be the basis of greatness and fortitude of mind, and conducive to that perfect organization of principles and elementary parts, which under the guidance of a reasoning faculty, will, as far as material influence can, regulate the affections and subdue the corruptions of human nature.

Memory will bring to the recollection of every man of observation, many proofs of the undue operation of the mind, not only in childhood, but even after the individual grows up, where the structure of the bodily organs is defective, and their developement slow. In some diseases the mind is imperfectly exerted, in the tumult of vicious affections improperly, and in many instances, as death approaches, not at all. If we were asked how to guard youth, or even manhood, against those turbulent commotions and propensities to inconsistency -- those offences too often practised against decency and duty -- it will be necessary, we should answer, at the time our mental remedy is employed, to direct such individuals to keep in due temper the fluids and solids of their body, by a prudent attention to the nature and quantity of their nourishment, the times and degrees of their exercise, the constant and suitable employment of the active powers of their intellect. Such would be the fundamental plan to regulate the passions, and to lay the mind open to the conviction of both moral obligation and religious truth, as well as to make it obedient to their laws. Since then the art of health may be deemed a blessing of the most diffusive nature, we cannot too soon begin the study of it; for health, particularly with the infant race, stands exposed to dangers which cannot always be foreseen, or being foreseen, could not be prevented. True it is indeed, that some there are foreseen, nay felt, not prevented, but even suffered and encouraged. The founders of empires, and the most celebrated among the lawgivers of antiquity, laid down rules for the mental and bodily advantages of those youths, who were one day to be called to the management of the state, insomuch as not even to trust the partial fondness of a parent, with the power of misconducting the corporeal and intellectual education of his child.

Feeble and puny as are the infants of the poor in the Metropolis, and extended as are the ravages of disease in them, we cannot barely contemplate the fact as a matter for curious speculation, but are naturally led to give it our serious reflection, as a national subject deserving a scientific enquiry, and as an important test of the state of nations as to many of the higher qualities of national character, and those institutions moral, medical, and political, whose value is to be estimated in their influence and effects on public health, manners, and conditions. To what are we to attribute the ill health of children, and the great mortality among them in the Metropolis? Is it to be assigned to the moral depravity and want of affection in parents -- to that degrading and destructive practice of dram-drinking, to which the lower orders are so miserably addicted -- to parental neglect from this depraved practice -- to a weak, delicate, and diseased organization, the unhappy inheritance of those infants, whose parents have impaired and enfeebled their constitutions by the intemperate use of spirits? Although the constitutions of such individuals may seem hardened against, and incapable of feeling for a time, the insidious consequences of the use of deletereous liquors, the partially at first, but entirely at last, are changed -- the nervous and the muscular systems grow weak, and the functions are ill performed. If the drinker of spirits could but once remember that the practice of drinking is a method of seeking ease inadequate to the purpose, and that a free use of spirits has a contrary effect to what was designed -- of disordering instead of raising the mind depressed by grief -- he would surely be induced to renounce this unmanly habit -- this destructive practice. With truth, sobriety and temperance may be regarded as the guardian angels that watch over the welfare both of a state and an individual, and difficult as it is to secure these blessings, it will appear absurd to contend, or even to suspect that medicine is capable of contributing any further aid in this case, than by obviating the ill effects of opposite habits. If the drunkard be invited to lay aside the pernicious habit to which he is addicted, he will perhaps tell you, that he cannot comply -- that it is too late to do so; the fact is, he has altered the machine, and has given it laws of his own, and by them he must now be content to stand or fall.

Very young children are fortunately but little liable in a direct manner, to suffer from the operation and effect of moral casues; their influence at this age being scarcely felt, and then only in a certain degree, by example. Through the moral depravity of parents it is, taken in an extended sense, that their offspring are the sufferers. In an inverse ratio to the former, however, is the influence of physical causes, and too decided is it on the infant economy to admit of any doubt. In contact from birth with air, light, heat, aliment, sound, odours, and subject to all the impressions derived from a material world, the body so susceptible as that of a child, is nicely sensible of the operation of all these stimuli; every hour experiencing some modified and fresh impressions from their separate, combined, and ever varying power -- from all their numerous transitions and fluctuating lassitudes. In the tender state of infancy, those causes are so immediately and rapidly felt, so much under the eye of the parent and public in general, that it would be quite superfluous to dilate upon them here. Others, such as constraint and confinement within doors, as the child advances in life, and the practice of bending the tender habits of infancy to baneful and prejudicial avocations are less observed, but have a powerful operation upon establishing an ill tempered and diseased state of mind, though this, from the severe discipline of teachers and superiors, is often suppressed until the adult state.

If we enquire into the effects of employments, mental and bodily, on the health of children, we shall find that many are proper objects of censure, not only with the poor, but the rich likewise. To bring this matter home, is not a great part of the evils we lament, the consequence of a mistaken choice of employment or profession of life, not in the least adapted to any powers we possess, or inclinations we experience? How many among those who seek immortal fame by engaging in the fatigues and dangers of military life, are there, whose delicate frames from infancy, were never designed for the hardships and difficulties of such an art, many of whom have been entered on the list of warriors with corals in their hands? How many others, animated by the reputation of a Demosthenes and a Cicero, have undertaken the toils and labours of the bar, whose lungs and bodily vigour are inadequate to such an arduous profession? Are not children often destined from their birth to certain employments, whether suited to their constitutions or not, without consulting common sense, merely because it is convenient to their families to dispose of them in such a manner?

An almost insuperable bias is imparted to children, from the accidental circumstances of birth, connection and example. Indeed, this latter not only stems, but turns the stream of natural propensities, and in many instances governs with a look or nod. To consign however over to inevitable misery -- to a wretched prolongation of life, all such as live, (and particularly children) by occupations that appear disagreeable to those whose pursuits and employments are more engaging, -- that we know in short to be pernicious, nay, hazardous, and sometimes fatal -- is certainly an injudicious, if not an erroneous conclusion. Is it true, that a given occupation proves certainly detrimental to all individuals, excepting, of course, painters, plumbers, and artificers, and those who are continually exposed to poisonous effluvia -- and even that it does so, to a certain point and degree? Perhaps not. Does not, again, the disposition of men towards the vast variety of employments of every kind, depend on a particular frame of mind, and strength of constitution; in consequence of which they neither dread or experience the miseries or ill health which the spectator is apt to fix as their inevitable lot? With respect to children, these arguments have still more force. Free from apprehension, thought, and care, they are not only content, but cheerful and gay during their work, in a remarkable manner resisting the deletereous agency of those physical powers to which they may be exposed, in the trade or business they may pursue. The indigent, both young and old, pursue most occupations, (injurious as some may be) with less detriment than the rich can "wallow in luxury, excess, and riot." And the inconveniencies, the miseries, nay the diseases, that are sometimes attendant on poverty, are often equalled by those that spring from the abuse of riches. It is however impossible for opinion alone to determine -- for nothing short of long and accurate observation can -- what degree of health would have fallen to any individual's share, young or old, in this or that particular trade or situation of life: for there is no disease to which the labouring child is subject, which is not also the lot of him who is in a higher rank of life.

Under the ages of thirteen or fourteen, political causes can scarcely be said to operate on the destinies of mankind. It is after that epoch that they sensibly influence and affect individuals. Then it is also that serious and anxious concerns in business, from an unbounded speculation in commerce -- that the allurements of ambition overwhelm the mind, drive it distraction, and prepare it for the commission of crime. "Deluded and unhappy, the disappointed man finds out the way to rob the state of a subject, his dependants of a friend, religion of its power, and his Creator of the right of disposing of the creature he has made!!"

Do the inhabitants of capital cities on the continent, adopt more judicious means for rearing children, than the inhabitants of London? Are they in the same practice of forcing them to employments -- to close bodily and mental exertion, under ten or twelve years of age, as the English are, in the manufacturing towns of Great Britain? Or, should we rather take other views, look for other causes of the ill health, the physical weakness and degeneracy of the children of the lower orders? Is not one great cause, nay, probably, the most potent of every cause, the adulterated state of the atmospheric air we respire in the confined and populous districts of the metropolis; the insalubrity, in short, of town? Unquestionably this is a physical power, as active and deletereous in its nature, as it is impracticable to rectify: a subtle agent precipitating insidiously thousands of children into a premature grave.

Among the more prominent and preponderating causes of ill health in children, may be justly reckoned also an improper choice and use of food, not only as to the quantity, but also the quality of the articles selected. When food can be plentifully procured, which may not be the case at this moment, it is frequently given in excess, consisting of insipid and indigestible substances -- of large quantities of bad potatoes, and other vegetables half boiled -- requiring stronger digestive powers to convert into nutriment than children possess. It is a rare circumstance and next to an impossibility for those children who experience the want of good air, who are bred up in filth, and clothed in rags, to possess a sufficient energy in the digestive organs, to reduce and convert their food into a pulp fit for the purposes of nutrition -- so important is a good air to the purification of the blood -- the process of reparation and growth, the well-being and strength of the body, to alacrity of mind, -- so necessary also is a healthy state of the skin, usually morbid in very poor children from the filth and moisture of the rags upon it, for the accomplishment of the same objects. In the next place, what must become of the actual health of our children, poor and rich, unless more unconstrained exercises than are usually allowed, be inculcated? The want of action, like the want air, is highly detrimental, and not to be supplied by the help of art. Without it, the organization is weak, and the body cannot long be preserved in health and vigor; for whilst it increases the appetite and the powers of digestion, it more or less strengthens the energy and force of the muscular system, and promotes the free circulation of the blood. A sweet and sound sleep veils the child in downy rest, facilitating every healthy process when exercise has been adapted to its strength. It must be admitted it may not be an easy matter, and at this time in particular, to furnish the children of the poor with food: but they might be encouraged and enjoined to adopt active exercises in an open, airy spot, in the suburbs of the city. If the youth were to be invited to sportive exercises and amusements, instead of being close confined in the tainted air of a school-room, or allowed to sleep and lounge at home for hours daily, I am persuaded many of the diseases to which they now fall victims, would be averted, the children made more athletic, and physical degeneracy remedied. Neither would two hours daily passed in these exercises, prevent their attention to the pursuits and employments, to which they are brought up. It would give them fresh spirits, revive their energies, and enable them better to support the fatigues and ill effects of confinement, when necesssary. To cleanliness, as an important part of the child's bodily education, allusion has already been made; and here the opportunity may be taken, to recommend the use of public baths, as a very effectual means of promoting the public health at large, but of the infant race in particular. The children of the poor are very generally affected with cutaneous disorders, which have a source both in the diseased state of their digestive organs, and the skin, the latter evidently in a variety of instances from uncleanliness, bad and scanty clothing, which when worn wet is apt to produce purgings; and if this should not be the case, the continuance of such eruptions disturbs the general health, impairs the functions, and tends to establish a lasting hectic -- a disease in its turn occasioning destructive consequences, by weakening and undermining the individual's strength, so as at length to disqualify him for the pursuits of amusement, instruction, or business. Public baths are those means of preserving and promoting the health of children, which the magistrate might establish under national or parochial regulations.

It is next in place to speak of a practice more fatal in its effects on very young children, than the combined operation of all the preceding prominent causes of disease in children in the earlier age of infancy -- the practice of wet-nursing. It cannot be too strongly inculcated that the infants of wet-nurses, so very numerous in this city, lamentable to say, frequently perish for want of care, food, and common comforts, when separated from their mothers, as every practitioner can testify. The nurse engaged from necessity in a mercenary occupation, for the benefit of the other branches of her family, consigns to the care of another female her own infant, who, from ill treatment, scantiness of food, uncleanliness, imprudent exposure to the inclemencies of the weather -- perhaps from slow insidious disease, the result of bad nursing -- often perishes, without even those attempts, it is to be feared, being made to restore it to health, which humanity requires. If the care of children from birth be a principal duty of humanity, it surely becomes us to attend to, and distinguish the accents and cries of pain and want at that tender age, when children have not acquired the habit and faculty of expressing themselves by signs and the idiom of their country.

The dangers of not fulfilling the august functions of maternity toward infants, are too urgent not to deserve the most serious reflection. The author of nature, in ordaining women for the reproduction of the human species, for training them up to health, and for forming their manners, has given them the most sacred duties to fulfill. Too many instances prove that they cannot depart from this duty with impunity, and overturn at their pleasure, the first interest of the marriage compact, and thus hasten their own destruction, and that also of their progeniture. If it were otherwise, we shoudl have to reproach the Supreme Being of great imperfection in the finest of all his works. It is surely to the depravity of our manners, and to vice, that we must attribute the relaxation, or defect of our first social institutions -- to false inductions with respect to the art of preserving health -- to egoistic insinuation often, that many women are induced to infringe on those high obligations, which they contract from the moment they enter upon the marriage state. To the little knowledge also, which most women possess of the duties of a parent, when they become mothers for the first time, of the dangers attending maternal disregard, and the abandonment of their dearest and most legitimate rights, may we with justice refer so injurious a practice. If all mothers could be brought to adopt their first and natural obligations toward their children -- if those who are living in affluence, and with all their comforts and conveniences about them, could be brought to feel the importance of the greatest of every private virtue -- Maternity -- I am persuaded the physical and moral amelioration of infants would be prompt and certain. Is it too much to hope -- to expect indeed that mothers will see the necessity -- the advantages of this -- that they will in short practice a virtue so noble, so precious, so useful, so natural!! Prejudice may interpose a difficulty. Mothers may not choose to give a different education to their daughters from what they themselves have received; but if instead of exclusively bringing up young women to the study and acquirement of entertaining arts and habits, a love of dress, of company, and frivolous pursuits, they were to be progressively instructed in the first duties of a good wife, a tender mother, and manager of a family, the evil would soon be diminished. If the ladies can be eventually prevailed upon to reconquer from their ill-conceived practice, their rights, and sieze with a firm hand, the little victims they deliver over to dangers, from which it was their province to have saved them; so far from having sowed for them a bed of thorns and briars, they will speedily and gratefully admit, that we have strewed roses for them, in a more happy and more consoling perspective of maternity, in purer and more solid enjoyments.

When a mother refuses the breast to her child, does she not deprive herself of the sweetest of all enjoyments, of that which forms the height of maternal tenderness? A mother who does not suckle, more or less impairs her own constitution, and frequently finds that she gradually declines into a state of infirmity and disease, which often proves fatal. Affections of the nerves, as hysterics, palpitations of the heart, head aches, loss of memory and of the voice, paralytic affections, eruptions of every kind, and a long train of painful and tedious disorders, are the ordinary consequences of this maternal neglect. It is surely extraordinary that the female who so anxiously seeks to become a mother, and who at the birth of her child sees around her the darling comfort of her family, will yet, from the same moment, cease to make this infant the constant and inalienable object of her attention and solicitude. She who suffered so much to have a child, all at once consigns its little wants to the care of another; uses her best efforts to change its natural dispositions, if not to precipitate it into the grave. What conduct, and what contrast!! How different was the practise of the civilized states of antiquity! How different was, and is the practice of all barbarous nations! And humiliating ought it not to be to a Christian lady of honor and virtue, to have superior examples of maternal solicitude and affection held up to her from the heathen and the barbarian! Suckling in Greece was deemed an indispensable duty, and the female figure in that age and people, was a personification of all the proportions of beauty, and furnished some of the finest models for the unrivalled statuary of antiquity. The Georgians, even at the present day, feel the example of their progenitors, and uniformly suckle their offspring, as a means of increasing their own beauty, their graces, and the colour of their complexion. And these women are remarkable for preserving their attractions, after they have endured the task of rearing large families. The Chinese refuse to employ those women who will not suckle their own children; and Julius Caesar used to ridicule the Roman ladies who carried little dogs upon their arms, instead of their own infants -- a practice successfully ridiculed by antiquity; but still occasionally preserved by the unmarried ladies who has passed their grand climacterick, and who doubtless adhere to the habit -- for antiquity sake. A memorable instance of the high feelings of a mother in this respect is recorded in history. Blanche of Castille, wife of Louis the 8th, and mother of St. Louis, suckled and brought up all her children. She executed this fond duty with such partial tenderness that, during an illness under which she laboured, one of her ladies of honour suckled her son, which on being perceived by the queen, she called for the young prince, put her finger into his mouth, and deprived him of the milk he had just swallowed, exclaiming at the same time, "Do you suppose, that I shall suffer any one to take from me the title and office of mother, which God and nature have given me?"

Independently of the violation of a first duty which this practise occasions, the consequences upon both infants (that of the mother and nurse) thus severed from their natural guardians, become serious and alarming.

If the child has the good luck to fall into the hands of a careful nurse, it becomes attached to her, and immediately imparts to her that first sentiment of lively affection which attaches a child to its mother. The mother, on observing this striking alienation, proceeds to recal the affection of the child, and strives (often with success) to make the infant hate her, to whom it owes the greatest obligations; thus at its birth corrupting its moral faculties, and inculcating a lesson of the blackest ingratitude.

Surely it is a painful feeling for a mother, to divide the right of a mother with any woman; of seeing her child love another woman better than herself; of perceiving that the tenderness it has for its own mother is a favor, and that that which it has for its adopted mother, is a duty. "Where the child finds the cares of a mother, ought it not there to have the attachment of a son?"

If mothers would deign to suckle their own children, the practice would tend to the improvement of our moral happiness. The attractions of domestic life, are the best antidotes of corrupt and vicious manners. The noise of children, deemed importunate, becomes agreeable; makes the father and mother more necessary, more dear to each other, and strengthens between them the conjugal tie. When a family is in health and spirits, domestic cares are the dearest obligations of the wife, and the sweetest amusement of the husband. One way for men to be good fathers and husbands, is for the women to become real mothers. The first rudiments of our education are without doubt the most important, and these become the province of the woman. The education of man begins at his birth; before he speaks, before he understands. The instant he knows his nurse, he has acquired a great deal.

As this interesting and important duty devolves upon the ladies, we are imperatively called upon to urge the due performance of so sacred a trust. To them therefore we are bound to say in the language of feeling and truth.

"Sex, ever mild, ever sensible, who, by character and nature, shew the most affectionate sentiments and expressions in the conjugal union, cease shewing yourselves in our eyes, often unworthy of the fine task, which the author of nature and our love, have confided to you. Cease, in the first ranks of society, where Providence has placed you to set an example, from those pleasures -- those futile enjoyments, which drive you from that respectable attitude you ought to hold in the most august functions of a wife, become a mother! Shew us that nothing can make you forget one of the first obligations of marriage, and that you can voluntarily endure the troubles, and all the solicitudes inseperable from a mother. Use all your empire over our hearts, and all your advantage in society, to convert it to the well being, the happiness of those interesting blossoms which you give us. Let no consideration, frivolous pretence, or interested views, induce you to infringe, without the most urgent motives, the resolution of suckling your own infants -- a resolution which belongs to your most legitimate, most natural and most sacred rights! Consult only your duty, and never constrain your tenderness, nor the impulses of your hearts toward your infants!"

In the few cases where suckling by the mother is impracticable, it is preferable for a child to be brought up by the hand, unless the circumstances of the parent are such as to allow of a wet nurse residing under the same roof with herself. But even then, the greatest circumspection in the choice of a nurse is necessary; and a provision should be made for the unfortunate little creature who is forced from its own mother, and so unfairly robbed of its birth-right. The practice of rearing children with the milk of animals, as of goats and cows, is of great antiquity, and known to be efficacious; and unless the wet nurse in all respects is unexceptional, and under a mother's eye, infinitely is it to be preferred to human milk. Even the Scythians and the Greeks had recourse to it; and it is resorted to in Russia, Denmark, England, Scotland, Ireland, Hungary, Germany, Switzerland, Holland, Flanders, Canada, France, &c. with success.

In a national point of view, it is politic for a state to encourage mothers to suckle their children, because by this practice so loudly called for by nature, they become more robust, and are better able to resist a thousand causes of death, which threaten them in the arms of a stranger; and mothers, far from losing their health in this work, often fortify and improve it. By this means a more abundant population, and a race of beings more capable of fatigue will grow up; whilst the energies, the strength and riches of an empire, which depend upon the health and vigour of the inhabitants, will increase. Are not children and adults stronger in the country, where they are suckled by their own mothers, than in cities where they are abandoned to strange nurses?

We are taught in the most conclusive and expressive manner, to admit that the physical constitution of man is formed of two powers essentially distinct, each developing its distinguishing and principal characters, by the impressions it receives in infancy, the first manifesting itself by the nature and the qualities of the milk or nourishment, with which the child is brought up; the second by words, actions, and by the more or less active impressions which strike and affect the senses during the same period. These two faculties of animal life, the attributes of the infant from its birth, form those peculiar affections which appear and continue in a certain degree in the future man. On the one hand, we observe them creating its material and vegetative constitution, or powers composing the various shades of its organic life and dispositions, or physical constitution, by means of which it is more or less apt to acquire and preserve a state of health, or contract disease; and through which is established its particular constitution, temperament, or habit. On the other hand, we notice it forming its animal and sensitive constitution, or powers collectively composing the shades of its ideal disposition, or moral constitution, by means of which it is more or less inclined to do good, or disposed to do harm; and through which are established its particular inclinations. From this individual organization then it follows of all the ages of life that of early infancy is the one which is of the greatest importance to families, to society, and to governments, to watch and to direct by good institutions, since it is then that all the faculties connected with the future existence of man, may be made to act with harmony, regularity, and the greatest advantage for him and for society, during the progress of the different ages he has to pass through, and which must sooner or later conduct him, happily or unhappily to the limits of his career. A soil which is neglected, as Horace remarks, will soon produce weeds: "Neglectis urenda filix innascitur agris." And what will it do, when we sow in it the seeds of such weeds with profusion? Will they not shortly stifle the seeds of those virtues we bring with us into the world?

"Sunt ingeniis nostris semina innata Virtutum." Cicero.

From the preceding remarks it may be concluded, that not only the vices of the heart, but even the bad physical constitution of man, frequently arise from the neglect and mismanagement of fathers and mothers: and

1st. During maternal suckling, when parents, from a flexible, versatile, ill-directed tenderness; or by indifferent and ill-applied cares, have not the courage or the will to repress the derangements which they remark in the early ages of infancy.

2dly. During wet-nursing out of doors, when parents deliver their children to persons, not only incapable of repressing these derangements, but what is worse, to such as are calculated to give them birth, and suggest vicious inclinations, if not to constitute some morbid affections.

Whichever it may be, during suckling at home, the father and mother are able any day, to stop the evil in its beginning and progress, and it is very rare for them not to accomplish this object; if they set about it in earnest, especially as the first effects do not fail of being perceived by, and of giving the alarm to one or the other. But it is not thus in suckling abroad; for, when the child returns from its nurse, the father and mother have no longer the opportunity to remedy the first impressions it has received; more violent, repeated, and longer continued efforts are required, than they will either dare or will exert. The mischief, yes, all the mischief is already done; it has struck root in the constitution, in the expanding intellectual facilities, and now it is incurable, or of doubtful issue. The father and mother are then more occupied with flattering the taste, the habits of the child, to attach it to themselves, and to make it forget its nurse, than to radically attack its defects or vices; they cannot be satisfied without caresses, and to obtain them they are willing to look over all. Thus a spoiled child is physically and morally formed; that is, a fantastical, idle, obstinate, and sometimes vicious child, who for the most part has a weak or bad constitution.

The habit of seeing, and every day taking care of a plant which begins to shoot and extend its branches, permits the cultivator, who sees it grow, to promote and favour its vegetation, and if it languishes, to rectify the direction of its shoots, as soon as he perceives that these do not follow their natural order, or separate themselves from their proper course, or from the one he wishes to give them. What for a moment to-day escapes his discriminating eye, he observes on the morrow or soon after, and hastens to alter and improve it, in proportion as he hopes to derive advantage, the price of his trouble and assiduity. In his walk today he rubs off the caries which attacks the stem of his plant; another day he cuts the luxuriant branches which weaken and exhaust it. All this work, this dressing, this superintendance are insensibly performed, and without injuring its growth. Shortly his whole plant bears fruit; it grows in all the pride of vigour, and in its natural proportions, or conformably to the genius of its cultivator, who sees it every day with a new pleasure, embellish with peculiar grace, beauty, and order, the work of his arrangements. But, if the plant be neglected or carelessly trained, or is stunted in its growth, (which happens when it is abandoned in a dry, uncultivated, and exhausted soil) and isolated from the eye interested in preserving it and bringing forth its fruit, it becomes in the progress of its growth an ill-shaped skeleton -- an abortion -- sowing as it advances the seeds of its own disorganization and decay.

In vain would the cultivator now strive, even by the most multiplied cares and unremitting efforts of his art, to remedy this vicious growth; all he can do is to support the frail life of the plant, and for a short time to sustain the misshapen harmony of its structure, until, lamenting the inutility of his labor, he at length, disappointed, abandons it, or plucks it up. Is it possible to doubt that the evolutions of growth, and the physical and moral developement of our faculties in infancy, are perfectly identified in those of the vegetative state of the plant, submitted to the care and cultivation of a good or bad agriculturist?

An infant of a few months old is very susceptible of impressions from surrounding objects, though it is incapable of expressing the sensations it experiences, except by two opposite signs -- smiles and tears. In the former act, how interesting! Observe it offering a prelude in its first caresses, to the grateful affection which it will one day feel for the parent on whom it leans for support, -- a pleasure implanting in the mother's heart a sentiment of tenderness that can never be eradicated. On its countenance, which is ever in motion, look at astonishment arising wherever it seeks, as its eye becomes affected by a strong light, or its ear by a sharp sound, to discover in some measure within itself, whether the new impression it feels is pleasing or painful. Watch the anxiety that succeeds to verify by the touch the existence of what it sees, and if this action gives it pain, notice it learning not to repeat it in future, keeping upon its guard, and refusing to touch those objects which, similar in appearance, excite a fear of the return of an impression equally unpleasant. Mark its speech. No sooner is the infant struck by certain words, between which and the objects of its desire, its young experience has taught it the connection, than it strives to mutter words indicative of its wishes. In short, it speaks, and by terms the meaning of which it has caught, it describes the more varied and compound sensations it experiences, till it attains such a knowledge of the idiom of its country as enables it to express even their minutest modifications. This is the interesting period when the child's intellectual existence begins to be developed. Now his ideas accumulate, he establishes different comparisons between the objects which influence his senses; he acquires a knowledge of the first connections between his fellow creatures and himself; he paves the way to a familarity with the abstract notions of the true, the just, the beautiful, the good, the useful, and the convenient, which are henceforward to form his heart, modify his passions, regulate his life, and mark with a particular character the productions of his mind. At this age he progressively learns, that although his senses cannot give him a positive and absolute knowledge of the objects in contact with them, they at least furnish him with a relative knowledge of these objects, and particularly when the experience of two or three senses co-operates in identifying one and the same impression; in short, that although each sense has an exclusive and particular function, some senses have functions common to others in different degrees; so that by concurrence of two senses, one and the same impression is furnished and confirmed. For instance, by the smell we judge of odours, and conjecture some qualities relative to sapid bodies, of which the taste alone judges. By the sight we judge of colours, of figures, of motion, of transparency, of equilibrium, of light. By the shock of bodies we conjecture their elasticity; by their fall, their weight. By the faculty of hearing, we judge of sound and its modifications, and by some one of these we judge of the matter composing the sonorous body and infer its distance. By the touch, we judge of extent, temperature, elasticity, weight, capacity, and contiguity; and when the action on the skin continues long enough, it gives us notions of the form and motion of bodies, which are principally within the sphere of vision, and this in its turn also, combined with the sense of touch, enables us to appreciate distances. Indeed all our senses more or less partake of the properties of the sense of feeling. Thus, the eye experiences the heat and the colour of flame, the palate the heat and sweetness of an aliment.

How interesting to observe in infancy that gradual developement of the senses, by means of which every object of the material world is render susceptible of being brought into contact with them! How admirable! A nerve communicating with the brain apprizes the mind of an impression. Immediately the whole system of nerves is influenced -- to the very extremity of each sense or organ to which each tends. The slightest contact that can be established between the object and these particular organs, is sufficient for the sense placed as a sentinel, unexperienced as it may yet be, to transmit an intimation to the mind through the nerve which is charged with the correspondence!

Since then, the most trifling impediment between the object and the sense, or the nerve and the brain, must defeat the order and harmony necessary for a distinct perception, too much attention cannot be given to promote in childhood, a complete developement -- a perfection of these organs. How gratifying to remark the operation of the mind on the other senses, when any communication has been once made to her by a single sense! No sooner does any object hurt the sense of touch, than we instantly direct the sense of sight to the injured part. No sooner does a disagreeable taste affect our palate, than we employ the smell to discover what causes it. An unexpected noise alarms us, and our eye suddenly seeks whence it proceeds.

Nor is it less curious to notice, and during the age of infancy in particular, the effects of an approximation of any strange substance to our senses; the sense happening first to perceive the impression acting with the greatest promptitude (hence the susceptibility of children and one cause of fits) and energetically giving the alarm to others, which, like so many picket guards, more or less advanced, ever hold themselves in readiness; each striving in its own particular way to discover the body, and defend itself against its influence. Such is the ingenious concert of our organs, that secures the life of man, from birth to the limits of his career, from the accidents to which he is liable -- that imparts to him useful knowledge for his preservation -- and that furnishes him with those impressions -- those multiplied and combined sensations which are the sources of his happiness and enjoyments!

If we could but once see the unnatural practices, the ill conceived systems we have treated, entirely exploded, the health, vigour, and morality of the population would be promoted, families would enjoy greater harmony, societies be better composed, and more select in their principles. Medicine alone would lose the frequency of a great number of diseases, which for a century have in a remarkable degree extended its domain; but no physician could regret a loss, which would tend so much to the benefit of humanity, and to morals. Empirics indeed -- that amphibious -- that mongrel race of beings, who prey upon the credulous and ignorant -- those Herods, who murder troops of children -- those bold and unblushing speculators in human life, who boast their pretended remedies -- their nostrums -- their secrets -- and their charms for all complaints, particularly for the diseases of infants, might murmur at the lessened sale of their Daffy's Elixir, their Carminatives, their Soothing Syrups, their Balsams of Honey, &c. &c. -- and so let them. Future generations will be the judges of the purity of our motives -- of the excellence of our cause -- of the accuracy of our judgment. Let us only perservere to apply our several antidotes, for there can be no doubt that the degeneracy of the human species, and the mortality among children in the population of cities, have as one primary cause, the errors, practices, and prejudices which have been described. An effectual means therefore of restoring the energies of the infant race, is the radical destruction of all such abuses and ill-conceived systems. No person will contend for the contrary, I presume, unless he supposes the necessity of a progressive decay or degeneracy of races, with a view to their total extinction.

When the state of the sick infant poor is examined, the melancholy fact will appear, that a great mortality prevails in that class of society, through the want of timely medical assistance, the inadequacy of existing medical institutions, and the impossibility of there being a select treatment of any particular class of patients in such establishments, to the exclusion of others. How can it be otherwise? If we look at the case in its more favorable point of view -- if we suppose the medical aid afforded in them, at once in respect of skill, to be always unexceptionable, is that aid given in due time when it is indispensably called for in the hour of danger? Where are the facilities that can assist, or where is the encouragement -- where are the provisions for admitting children into hospitals and dispensaries, at the critical moment when danger is nigh, and immediate assistant requisite. Unfortunately for the sick infant poor, their parents, as we have seen, from neglect or ignorance, do not advert to the importance of correcting in early life, the fatal consequences of a feeble and defective organization, much less the progress of some slow insidious disease, which ultimately bursts forth with unexpected -- with complicated violence, and destroys its victim; alarmed only by the more rapid ravages of an acute distemper, the aid derivable from medical attention is too long declined, or when even sought, is not unfrequently opposed or frustrated, till death advances to close the scene, as the little sufferer's last and sole resource. The causes of such conduct are different, but its termination is one and the same; a loss of the benefits which might ensue from prompt, attentive and judicious practice.

Thus far then it is obvious that sick indigent children do not participate in the advantage of receiving the full benefit of seasonable medical exertion, unless some fortunate accident, a mere casualty, brings it in time to their thresholds. May we not go a step further, and say, that in no age has the study of disorders of children kept pace with the general advancement of science? Although many improvements in the practice of medicine, and several important discoveries in the sister sciences, have distinguished the last century, not until late years have any detailed, complete, and satisfactory accounts of the diseases of children been produced.

Is it not a melancholy fact, when we reflect that medical attendance in the aggregate is so scantily provided for poor children, (they not being the exclusive objects of care of any class of practitioners after two or three months) that large numbers of them, who, by timely and continued medical assistance, might be rescued from death, unfortunately perish? Is it not notorious, that nearly one half of the children die before they reach two years of age, a large proportion of whom are never admitted into a hospital or dispensary? Besides, as these noble public charities are of a general nature, and open for the relief of all diseases, they are not, from the very principle and object of their foundation, calculated or designed to admit of the investigation of any species of disorder to the exclusion of another, or the treatment of any particular class of patients, to the neglect of other patients, who may be the more direct objects of their care and treatment. In hospitals, very few children indeed are admitted under two years of age, and though this proportion to adults is surpassed in dispensaries, still it is small upon the average. Should any person be inclined to infer that this representation rests on mere assertion, let him enquire, with circumspection and diligence, into the fact here advanced, before he denies it, or hastily deserts the cause of sick indigent children.

One of the consequences of so few children being received into dispensaries and hospitals, compared with the mortality among them, is this. They are necessarily consigned to the care and skill of some neighbouring practitioner in medicine, and if they should fortunately be committed to one of character and reputation, of known humanity and professional knowledge, not too much engaged with his other patients to strictly attend to their cases, it will be all well. But what is the posture of the sick indigent child, when handed over to the management of a medical man, whose principles of humanity are weak, when weighed in the scale against his pursuit of self-interest, and whose qualifications are so superficial and mean, as to render his practice worthless? And yet to such practitioners as these -- to uneducated journeymen -- to empirics, who style themselves practitioners in medicine, it often falls to the lot of the authorized guardians of the public health -- to the physicians of medical institutions, to see the children of the poor committed, to the disgrace of the profession, and the prejudice of its more respectable members! Any expatiation on the fatal consequences resulting to them, thus placed between opportunity lost either from delay or ignorance, is unnecessary. Let the sensible and humane mind draw its own conclusion.

Thus far we have found in our enquiry, the condition of sick indigent children generally deplorable; and it would be gratifying to humanity, if we had exhausted all the evils -- all the miseries to which they are exposed. Sufficient however have been pointed out, to lead to the proposition and establishment of an institution more suited to meet the danger and rapidity of diseases incident to children, general in its principle -- efficient in its purpose -- open to a first application in every case of danger. Public benevolence has now founded a central dispensary in the metropolis; and as soon as this admirable institution shall be furnished with funds necessary for its completely effective operation, and stations opened in numerous parts of the metropolis, it is to be hoped, that in moral and physical consequence, their support and their usefulness will multiply together.

It is honorable to our age to reflect, that the period has arrived when medical institutions of this kind are duly appreciated by the public -- when prejudice and error no longer operate on the minds of the poor, as to their real object and practical results. There seems no other practicably efficacious method of softening the rigours of poverty combined with disease in children, than through the medium of these institutions; of correcting the errors of parents in respect of the domestic management of children, of exploding those anile and superstitious prejudices, still pursued by the poor in rearing their offspring, and above all, that fatal and mistaken impression of antiquity, that medical men can have but an imperfect notion of children's complaints, and the general treatment of the infant economy.

What system is so likely to accomplish a reform with the poor, in the domestic management of their children, as disseminating the best and most appropriate instructions among them for this purpose, comprehending in such the preservative means of health and general treatment of the body in disease? What course can be so efficacious -- what plan so promising for the final and complete attainment of this salutory end, as to issue those instructions under public sanction, from the highest authority, by the hands of those physicians who possess the confidence of the parents to whom they are presented? Any project for ameliorating the condition, and improving the health of the sick infant poor, must, like any moral undertaking for the improvement of their happiness, terminate in imperfect and partial execution, unless you previously instruct and enlighten the parents -- impress upon their minds the right and the wrong -- point out error -- hold up to abhorrence and condemnation, an injurious or defective system -- and substitute a new plan of easy application, simple in its instructions -- rational in its principle. Could any one so far lose sight of discrimination, or presume to deviate so widely from the truth, as to deny that sickness in children in union with poverty, can admit of alleviation?

When we reflect upon the toils and cares, and miserable condition of the poor, we cannot be surprised, incapable as they are, with the utmost exertions of preserving their families from want, at their slowness in detecting the first signs of disease in their children. Closely and laboriously engaged in finding means to satisfy their eager cries of hunger which cannot be suppressed -- in warming with the scanty faggot their chill and dreary habitations -- in procuring cloathes or rather rags, for their daily and nightly covering, insufficient at best to afford protection to their nakedness against the cold -- how is it to be expected that they can afford to lose a large portion of their time, in seeking after the succours of art for their offspring, when inaccessible without a letter of recommendation, requiring repeated efforts to procure? In order therefore to encourage parents to apply early for medical aid, and to render that aid easy of access, so as to obviate the fatal effects of neglect in waiting for tickets of admission to general medical institutions, thus supplying what is evidently imperfect in them, has a universal medical charity been opened, offering in its present channel of dispensation, immediate relief without any other trouble to the parent than a direct application at the Dispensary. Thus it is scarcely needful for the poor to relax from their ordinary labour; besides which, the expectation of assistance may uniformly, and with charity be cherished. Neither in affording a boon of charity to the most helpless of our fellow mortals, is an arduous or impractable measure of exertion solicited of the patrons. Let the physician, by their means, extend but the helping hand to poverty, goaded by care and sickness, and the parent who brings the wretched object that wants your help, will gladly accept the offer of your services.

One circumstance of advantage derivable from giving a peculiar attention to the health of children, will be acknowledged by every class of individuals. It may be expected that fresh opportunities for ascertaining by a careful and extended attention to facts and cases, the best practical means of resisting and correcting the deleterious agency of physical powers on the infant economy -- for treating the diseases of children -- will tend considerably to the advancement of this branch of medical science, and the mitigation of the evil consequences of the moral depravity of parents, as affecting their offspring. It is not from the present facilities of attending to infantine complaints in schools of medicine, where more general objects of science absorb the student's time -- where but few patients of this class are assembled for examination, and no clinical instructions delivered -- that the knowledge and cure of diseases in children can be accurately acquired. An object so desirable as this to the student, must be looked for, not in the casual case in this or that hospital, but in the public charity, where from a concentration of cases, every variety of disease peculiar to the infant race may be met with. It will not be contended that this subject is already exhausted, and that a field is not still open for further enquiry and investigation, if the mortality among children, be any evidence of the contrary necessity; nor will it be denied that it is only by collecting facts and observations -- by paying minute attention to cases that our practice in medicine can be successfully conducted, the art of physic -- its theory and practice -- being the art of faithfully observing, understanding, controlling and regulating the phenomena and functions of life as influenced by disease. If there are still any persons disposed to maintain that a Dispensary for children is unnecessary, we shall not cease to remind them again and again, that in this Institution there is a feature of the highest value -- a feature which, by providing prompt assistance in every case of danger, without a recommendation, remedies the greatest of all defects in other medical establishments. Does not this refute any objection? Is it not an unanswerable advantage? Yes, and if its merits stood on this ground alone, a Dispensary for children, we contend is absolutely necessary -- a medical want now most happily supplied.

Extensively to disseminate instructions among the middle and industrious classes of society, as well as the poor, respecting the method of rearing children, is an object of two-fold importance. Such information would operate not only a benefit on their offspring, immediately, in a medical point of view, but would also tend to promote that moral improvement on which their amelioration -- their happiness must depend, as members of the community, and whose improvement would be of material moment to the nation. Nothing is less controvertible than this -- that if the poor are ignorant of the best means of rearing their children, it is as much the duty of their superiors to impart to them useful information on this subject, as it is to concert means for the improvement of their morals and happiness. It is not merely food, it is not the protection of their lives and property only, that the poor have a right to demand of the country to which they belong. Such is the constitution of society, that the poor in the way of honest industry, have but few opportunities themselves of contributing to their own domestic improvements; yet when free from those miseries, which are the sad and certain attendants of vice and idleness, and the result of early habits, ignorance of religion, and a limited education -- habits unfortunately but too often confirmed in the individual as he grows up to manhood, they are always open to the suggestions of reason and truth, when conveyed by the hand of benevolence and humanity. Barely able, as a great many indeed are of earning a scanty subsistence, and truly deplorable as is the condition of their wives and families, in consequence, they will not, reject in the moment of distress, the proffered boon of charity, which professes to amend the health, and preserve the lives of their infant progeny; if they did, it would be contrary to the expectation formed of long practical observation of their characters, feelings, and dispositions.

If some benevolent ladies could be prevailed upon to form district committees, to visit and inspect the state of sick indigent children, and report to the committee of the Universal Dispensary for the infant poor, of which they should become an integral part, how many tears of gratitude would not drop from the eyes of disconsolate parents at seeing them so kindly instrumental in rescuing from death their helpless and diseased offspring? How much practical good would not result from their persuasive instruction -- from their judicious advice and representations, both in a medical and moral point of view? By such visitations as these, it may be predicted that the instances of mortality among children, would be quickly diminished. At the same time that such benevolent females corrected the absurd notions and errors of the poor, as to the domestic management of their children, would they not dissuade successfully the young and old from vice and idleness -- would they not point out in a manner peculiar to themselves, the importance of good conduct, morals, early habits of activity, and of those principles which would make them useful members of society? By such means, they would preserve the health and rescue the most deplorable of human beings from an ignorance of their duty to God and man, animate them to the imitation of good example, expand their minds, and thus avert from them misery and want, the certain consequences of ignorance, ill-conceived systems, and idleness. It may with confidence be affirmed, that no sooner would want, wretchedness, ignorance, and vice, be discovered under the roof where the cries of distress, and the groans of disease, were sounding in the ears of such visitors as we have hinted at, than the amelioration -- the redress of infant misery would be ensured. Only let this charitable work but once commence, time and progressive experience will determine how far it is adequate -- how far applicable to the improvement of the health and morals of the infant race. It is justly said, that "in agricultural life, children properly managed, are no burden, and thence it was that the ancients always reckoned them among their riches. Why then should they not prove so with us in numerous employments? If they do not, is it to be attributed to some imperfection in our domestic, our moral and political systems?"

With regret, however, it has been found that the lowest classes of poor, have doubtless been induced through necessity and distress to part with some of their children, and occasionally in a state of health, very unequal to sustain the trials of an arduous employment: and still more is it to be lamented, that when this has not been carried into effect by their parents, for whom there is some excuse, the parish has often done it form them -- and thus exercised its guardianship and humanity!!

Injurious however as some species of employments must have been to the debilitated portion of the infant race, doubly terrible have been the effects of neglect, and ignorance, upon that most wretched branch of our population. When the public are informed by authority, that out of 15000 street beggars in and around the metropolis, 9000 of them are children, the feeling mind must at once be struck with horror at the sad recital. It is impossible to contemplate this accumulation of misery, without shuddering at the formidable organization of crime, and the settled and rivetted habits of idleness, with its long train of fatal concomitants, which are interwoven with the consideration. When we reflect at how comparatively small an expence society could protect itself from the existence of this juvenile confederation against its peace and property, the mind wonders that public attention has not sooner been called to the adoption of a system, having for its object the early formation of youth, according to that wholesome moral, "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it." The subtraction even from national wealth, of the labour of that portion of the people which is thus withdrawn from it by juvenile habits of unrestrained vice and idleness, is a serious loss; but the depredations committed by this class upon their better neighbours, is a still more serious one, from the comprehensive effect of its two-fold operation -- first, in the direct loss sustained by the individual in the deprivation of a part of his property, and secondly the public expence to which he contributes for the detection and punishment of the offender. The rapid progress of education of late years among the poor, is of course well calculated to reduce the effect of this evil; but the encreasing poverty of the times still disables a great portion of the community from paying that early attention to the health and morals of the infant race, which are essential for the establishment of those fixed principles and permanent habits that influence the actions and conduct of mankind.

The Police Report which closed the labours of the House of Commons last session, teems with ample and important information on this subject -- ample, from the immense mass of evidence it disclosed, as to the increase of juvenile depravity of late years, and important, from the wise and just conclusions it has drawn as to the nature and cause of the alarming evil. The report is formed of no speculative matter -- it consists of nothing but facts, demonstrative of the great increase of crime among children at the earliest age, through the poverty and profligacy of their parents. It brings with it however both "the bane and antidote," for Mr. Robert Owen, of Lanark, a public spirited man, who has for the last 17 years employed on an average 2000 persons of both sexes and all ages, declared, when asked his opinion on the subject of a remedy for the existing evils, -- that he saw but one, and that was, "a well devised system of training and instruction which should directly apply to form the habits and dispositions of children from their infancy." Such an establishment to be fully effective must be undertaken upon a large scale -- the object being national, so should the institution. If however objections should arise on the subject of the expenditure necessary for the introduction of a comprehensive system, and the embarrassing moment when it is called for, there can be no difficulty to make the experiment in parts by local associations. Parochial arrangements would in such a case be desirable, and philanthropic characters would, without difficulty, be found to assist in the humane work -- the benefits of the system would soon be diffused, and at a moment when such an effect is most desirable, confidence would be impressed on the minds of the lower classes of people, among whom better habits and feelings would speedily prevail to the exclusion of those baneful and destructive practices which indigence and the example of bad association create and perpetuate at present with fatal activity. The elements of national misery will be found in the vicious ingredients to which allusion has just been made, the depravity of the individual soon ranges abroad from the isolated sphere in which it is first engendered, and infects by its contagious example associates and dependants, society at large thus becoming the certain and ultimate sufferers. To rescue infancy from such pernicious models -- to protect the health of such objects from the effects of the above revolting and fatal practices, must surely be desirable!

Whilst then some individuals are nobly employed in devising means to amend the state of society, to improve the condition of the indigent, let others serve the cause as effectually, by relieving the sufferings of the helpless infant poor, by studying the most advantageous means to preserve and strengthen their constitutions, so as to impart to them that vigour in their early days, that will ensure a healthy population, and enable the poor to support those labours from which the rich extract their competence and resources. A wide field presents itself for this enquiry among the children upon different parishes, many of whom are in a deplorable state of health. It has been mentioned with great satisfaction, that several parishes intend appointing poor houses, a few miles out of town, for the reception of children, instead of putting them out to nurse, in parties of two, three or four, to poor women in the country, at their own houses, a very objectionable practice for many reasons. The effects of a change of air from a poor house in town to one out of town, upon indigent children, would soon be evident to every observer; and a great proportion of invalid children would be found to recover unexpectedly and even without medicine very fast after their removal, who are pale, debilitated, ricketty, and highly unhealthy in London. This example, already set in the parish of Christ Church, Surry, [1] by the zeal and activity of Benjamin Hawes, Esq. would, if imitated generally, contribute to the diminution of mortality among the infant poor -- to their comfort and happiness -- and ultimately to the strength and energies of the population. Why should not every parish resort to this method? And now that so many poor children, employed formerly in manufactories, in husbandry and in trade, are, from the distressed state of the times, necessarily thrown upon their parishes, it would be truly humane and christianlike, to establish for them poor houses out of London. This is also an inducement to recommend, that for charity schools, which often contain a great number of unhealthy boys and girls, an apartment should be engaged a short distance from town, to which the children should be allowed to resort once a week, for the purpose of breathing good air, and exercising themselves freely and without restraint. Would it not be worth while for parishes or districts to unite, and establish a house out of London, as a house of recovery, for the purpose of receiving such children as were sickly in town? Hundreds of lives might be thus annually saved, and the parishes might make arrangements for the admission of a certain number of patients yearly from the Universal Dispensary for children, where objects most requiring a change of air would be oftenest concentrated. By no more effectual way, in many cases of infantine disease, connected or not with complicated and severe distress, could relief be administered, than in asylums erected around London, for the reception of such poor sick children as were proper objects. If only three or four asylums were constructed in different districts, in which nothing but the plainest accomodation and mere necessary comfort were considered, a great and certain benefit would result.

Sound policy would surely suggest the adoption of a plan, having for its object the preservation and continuance of human lives; and more particularly still, would political society cherish and approve it, since by the daily and unremitting toils of the poor, its most indispensible requisites are regularly supplied! Shall we not also by a manifestation of a due sensibility to the wants of children, and regard to their health and comfort, secure the affections of their parents? That policy which is in connection with humanity, charity, justice, and religion is surely sound, and will be permanent. That plan, the final object of which is, the relief of misery, will afford its supporters the highest consolation -- the affectionate gratitude of those, who have neither the means to confer reward or assist themselves. It seems more necessary now than ever to study the means of preserving the health of paupers' children. As many more are thrown upon the parish than formerly, the expences for medical help will be increased, and what is equally bad, sickly children cannot work in manufacturing such materials as the parish officers may put into their hands to aid in defraying the charges of their maintenance and clothing. Nor is this all; by disease and debility, the mind and body are incapacitated from work, and those habits of idleness which are so destructive of the children's future happiness are not only favoured but established. If therefore the best means be studied for preserving the health of the children, they will become a less expensive burden to the parish; they will be capable of receiving an education; of working to a certain degree, and of contributing to each other's comfort and happiness, in some way or other. Should the commercial resources of the country revive, and it is to be hoped they will, occupation will be found for the unemployed [2] poor, and if so, the parishes will of course have fewer children to maintain. It is of the first importance therefore, to devise means to enable the poor to remain in their homes, for although parishes may be called upon in case of sickness and extreme distress, to contribute to their relief; yet their spirits and habits of industry would be kept up, and less expense upon the whole incurred.

It will naturally be expected under a system for the amelioration of the state of the rising generation, that the education of children, must form a prominent feature, and be strongly enjoined. An object also, of considerable consequence to the comfort of poor children, especially when diseased, is such a supply of suitable clothing as will admit of the proper changes being made. In this respect, both in body and in bed clothes, the lower classes of poor, as well as their children, are miserably deficient. Perhaps there is no individual whose representations on this head to a parish would be so effectual as the physician's. If the officers would request his communications when on his personal visits to poor sick children, they might obviate the imposition to which they might be otherwise often liable, and would thus have an unerring guide for exercising their humanity to the greatest advantage. The wretched clothing, in which hundreds of sick indigent children are wrapped, is a source of deep regret, and what makes the case worse, of such rags they scarcely have a single change. The effect of local medical charities on the health and morals of the poor and their children is excellent. How many individuals of every age, have been saved by the liberal and multiplied exertions of the community, directed to the support of dispensaries! From thoughtlessness, ill timed generosity, and mismanagement, even many of the better class of poor, who are neither wanting in moral or religious conduct, have no resources in the time of sickness, and when thus embarrassed, ardently seek, and gladly accept the efficacious assistance of a Dispensary. There is no species of institution more generally useful to the poor than dispensaries. They are an inducement for them to remain in their own humble habitations, under the affectionate attentions of their own families, who frequently make great exertions to support and cheer them; and what so highly enhances the value of these institutions, is the peculiar and inestimable benefit they bestow in providing the personal visitations of the physician and surgeon, when required. Time, so valuable to the poor, is saved by the facilities which they experience in procuring tickets of admission for them; and they are also a great relief to the parishes, many of the objects now relieved by them at home, having no alternative but the parish, in the event of failing to obtain assistance from the dispensaries. In the next place, they are easier of access than hospitals; and on many accounts by a large class of poor, are preferred to those excellent institutions. The good effects of dispensaries, may be traced even further than this. By their means, the public health at large is promoted and restored, and the population strengthened, whilst the credulous poor are shielded from the base and baneful treatment of the unprincipled empiric. Since the establishment therefore of dispensaries, the general health of the metropolis has been improved, a circumstance attributable also, it is true, to the widening of the streets, and their better ventilation, the abundant supply of water, and the removal through the sewers of all offensive matter, the number of country houses, which have drawn off a considerable portion of the population, and other circumstances equally known and admitted.

In a variety of instances, it has been seen in the London Dispensary, that the bounty which, from numerous channels has fed and supported it for years, has reverted to its sources, and has been applied to the relief of those who had in happier times been its Governors; upwards of 3000 patients, of all ages, are annually relieved in that excellent charity, and the fresh energies it has lately derived from the exertions of the benevolent in Spitalfields, in that neighbourhood of distress, is truly gratifying, and proves beyond a doubt, what resources are ever found in this land of charity in British hearts.

The immense benefit which has flowed from the progress of education among the children of the poor, has been general and striking; but it is to be feared that the existing distress has in many instances withdrawn from those excellent seminaries of instruction, furnished by the friends of humanity, objects who had heretofore derived advantage from them. The number clothed at such seminaries is small, compared to that of those receiving education at them, and it is a fact, that in a variety of instances children have quitted them altogether, through the want of the commonest necessities of clothing, and have been compelled either to loiter in the wretched abodes of misery to which their station in life consigned them, or to quit them for purposes of crime and vice. It would be then desirable, that means should be furnished in the different schools of the metropolis, to supply clothing to the children, in case of urgent necessity, and to receive in return, either from them or their parents, a certain adequate portion of labour -- thus, industry would keep pace with the progress of education, and the public would be, in many instances, relieved from a portion of the poors rates, to which at present they are exposed for the support of the idle and profligate.

It has been said that it is of great consequence to commence the education of children when they are young, before they have acquired improper notions and habits; so it is in conducting the bodily education important, to teach a child early to walk and stand upright, in order to obviate the ill effects of lolling or leaning on one side, habits which are not easily removed when they are ten or twelve years of age. And hence it seems highly proper to inculcate that active, brisk, and health exercise contributes to the development of mental power in youth; and that during this period of life, the energy of the brain is in proportion to the vigour and activity of the muscular system, although in adults there are many instances completely the reverse of this fact.

But let it be remembered, that no room, however spacious, is a proper place for the active sports and plays of children. They will derive but little benefit during the recess from study and confinement, unless their exercises are carried on in the open air, since it is a general law of animated beings, that the powers of sense and motion with which they are endured, must be called into action by their appropriate stimuli, and without restraint, in order to their preservation, not only because the system is strengthened by this means, but because the senses cannot be influenced, nor life itself duly sustained, if this activity be departed from, and the natural stimuli withdrawn. The motive powers are evidently necessary for obtaining the pleasures and gratifications of sense, and are therefore the means of supporting the whole machine; but at no period of our existence are these powers, which are the sources of our preservation, our pleasures and our pains, more interesting to notice than in the early part of life. The exercise of our various faculties, whether directed to attainment of the necessaries of life, or the pursuit of pleasures, is ever agreeable to us from our earliest days. In youth how strikingly is this exemplified, in a longing after every active employment, in searching after novelty and knowledge. In short, many of the highest enjoyments we taste, are derived from, and consist in, an active use of our sensitive and motive faculties; whilst the excellence and degree of perfection of each power or sense depends principally on the early habits and exercises we adopt. In their temperate use our happiness consists, since whatever is laboured for by our own industry, brings with it a peculiar enjoyment as a recompence.

To conclude the preceding observations. Since error is found so much to predominate in the mode of rearing children, from long established customs and superstitious notions -- since the systems pursued by the illiterate and uninstructed are still embued with absurdities, may we not partly succeed in applying an antidote, by communicating in various directions, from time to time, suggestions for the amelioration of the health and general state of the rising generation -- by widely disseminating our domestic instructions -- by conveying some axioms -- some hints in every public channel of information open to the poor; so that the subject of managing the health of their children should in various shapes be brought to their notice, and practised by themselves at their own firesides. All these advantages would more effectually flow from the establishment of a general system, applied to the early formation of the mind. Such an institution, under a proper system of management, would form a rallying point of succour for the poor in the hour of their misery. It would form a nursery for the education of the infant race, and for paving the way to the introduction of better habits and purer morals, than those which now unhappily prevail. The Universal Dispensary for the Infant Poor will do much in this respect, as part of a system for the general amelioration of the rising generation. In vain however will the attempt be made to change the morals and improve the happiness of the poor, unless the foundation is laid for a good physical education of the body, for a complete developement during the process of growth of all the organs and constituent parts of the machine; unless we impart strength and vigour to a feeble constitution, and avert the morbid tendencies connected with a delicate and imperfect organization. Can the individual perform the duties or labours required of him in his situation of life, unless he enters upon them with sound and healthy faculties of body and mind? These can only be obtained by an attention to the helpless and docile state of infancy, by marking the developement of the inclinations and actions of that state, and guiding them in their progress towards those periods, when they are called upon to take an active part in the business of society. This can only be done by assiduity and attention -- by affording to the objects of our solicitude that considerable attention which their early wants require, and adopting a general and comprehensive system, calculated by the wisdom of its regulations, to imprint a permanent impression on the mind. In such an undertaking, the co-operation of the public at large is an indispensable and preliminary requisite, without that aid, vain will be the efforts of the few, they may indeed operate in the private circle of each individual concerned, but they cannot reach that larger object which must be attained, before long settled habits and deeply rooted prejudices can be eradicated from society.


[1] The infant poor of this parish are now brought up in an establishment at Wandsworth, where they enjoy excellent health. Scarcely a life has been lost for years, though the average number of children in the house is from 30 to 35.

[2] See Williams on improving the state of the poor.

Created 12/1/96 / Last modified 12/17/96
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