Page:Remarks on the British Quarantine Laws.djvu/30

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Dr. Maclean on the


themselves of opinion that these regulations might be modified without risk to the public safety," and that the individual witnesses examined by the Committee, who expressed any opinion on the subject, were equally favorable to a mitigation of them; and more especially, since, as I shall presently show, some part of the evidence adduced would have justified, or rather required, the abolition of quarantine in England, as far as regards our intercourse with Turkey, even if the plague of that country were undoubtedly propagated by a specific virus; under these circumstances, and seeing that to ascertain the validity or non-validity, of the doctrine of contagion, in the plague, could have legislatively no result, excepting as it might affect the regulations of quarantine; it cannot but be deemed extraordinary that the Committee should have regarded these regulations as not falling within the scope of inquiry to which they had been directed." For what other purpose was the Committee instituted? Surely it could not have been for the mere gratification of an idle curiosity that they were to occupy nearly a whole session in inquiring into the validity of the doctrine of contagion in the plague. Legislatively, what possible result could such an inquiry have, besides the confirmation, modification, or abolition of quarantine regulations? Had the Committee, according to their ideas of evidence, i.e. according to the opinions of all or a great majority of the physicians examined, found the proofs against the existence of contagion in the plague to be conclusive, would they not have thought it incumbent upon them to have recommended that the quarantine laws should be immediately abolished, as far as related to intercourse with the Levant? Had it, on the other hand, been proved upon evidence equally satisfactory, not only that a specific virus is the cause of plague, but that that virus is of a nature much more active, penetrating, and diffusive, than it has hitherto been represented, or imagined, by any of its partisans, would they not have thought it their duty to have recommended to the legislature to direct an increased activity and extension in regard to the ordinary measures of precaution—more walls and higher, to shut out larks? Or, if what the Committee have chosen to consider as the prevailing doctrine had been found to be correct, and if the virus of pestilential contagion had been ascertained to have precisely the properties which have been attributed to it, would they not have been bound to declare that the existing quarantine regulations ought, as the best possible code, to be faithfully and exactly maintained? Or, again, facts being adduced, proving that, even did contagion undoubtedly exist in the plague of the Levant, quarantine would, in respect to that disease, still be without an object in England, was it not their duty, as far as regards our intercourse with Turkey,