Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/477

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
461
THE STUDY OF SOCIOLOGY.

in private steamships to save machinery from breakage, but not used in the navy until much machinery had been broken. On going back a little, this relative inefficiency of administration is still more strikingly shown: instance the fact that, during the Chinese Expedition of 1841, a mortality, at the rate of three or four per day in a crew of 300, arose from drinking muddy water from the paddy-fields, though, either by boiling it or by filtering it through charcoal, much of this mortality might have been prevented; instance the fact that, within the memory of living officers (I have it from the mouth of one who had the experience), vessels-of-war, leaving Deptford, filled their casks with Thames-water taken at ebb-tide, which water during its subsequent period of putrefaction had to be filtered through handkerchiefs before drinking and then swallowed while holding the nose; or instance the accumulation of abominable abuses and malversations and tyrannies which produced the mutiny at Spithead. But, perhaps, of all such illustrations, the most striking is that which the treatment of scurvy shows us. It was in 1593 that sour juices were first recommended by Albertus; and in the same year Sir R. Hawkins cured his crew of scurvy by lemon-juice. In 1600 Commodore Lancaster, who took out the first squadron of the East India Company's ships, kept the crew of his own ship in perfect health by lemon-juice, while the crews of the three accompanying ships were so disabled that he had to send his men on board to set their sails. In 1636 this remedy was again recommended in medical works on scurvy. Admiral Wagner, commanding our fleet in the Baltic in 1726, again proved it to be a specific. In 1757, Dr. Lind, the physician to the naval hospital at Haslar, collected and published, in an elaborate work, these and many other proofs of its efficacy. Nevertheless, scurvy continued to carry off thousands of our sailors. In 1780, 2,400 in the Channel Fleet were affected by it; and in 1795 the safety of the Channel Fleet was endangered by it. At length, in that year, the Admiralty ordered a regular supply of lemon-juice to the navy. Thus two centuries after the remedy was known, and forty years after a chief medical officer of the Government had given conclusive evidence of its worth, the Admiralty, forced thereto by an exacerbation of the evil, first moved in the matter. And what had been the effect of this almost incredible perversity of officialism? The mortality from scurvy during this long period had exceeded the mortality by battles, wrecks, and all casualties of sea-life put together![1]

How, through military administration, there has all along run, and still runs, a kindred stupidity and obstructiveness, pages of examples might be accumulated to show. The debates pending the abolition of the purchase-system furnish many; the accounts of life at Aldershot and of autumn manoeuvres furnish many; and many might be added in the shape of protests like those made against martinet

  1. See Tweedie's "System of Practical Medicine," vol. v., pp. 62-69.