Page:Remarks on the British Quarantine Laws.djvu/33

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British Quarantine Laws.


to be efficient for their professed object. That efficiency, like the existence of contagion itself, was implicitly taken for granted. Had the plague been proved to depend upon contagion, as certainly as the small pox, it would by no means necessarily follow that sanitary restrictions would be efficient for preventing the introduction or spreading of the malady. They are found, upon the evidence of the history of epidemics, to be, in fact, wholly inefficient, as in reason they must be inferred to be, for preventing the propagation of pestilence. Upon what grounds, indeed, can precautions, which are obviously insufficient to prevent the occurrence of diseases, as small-pox, which are incapable of affecting the same person more than once, be rationally presumed to be adequate to prevent diseases, as pestilences, which are capable of affecting the same person repeatedly, even in the same epidemic, and the same season? This law of repetition, independently of the circumstance that the proper causes of pestilence are such as are insusceptible of being obviated or controled by any sanitary restrictions whatsoever, render all attempts at such methods of prevention something much worse than ridiculous. The efficiency, or non-efficiency of all such regulations, it was the duty of the Committee, instead of taking it for granted, to have expressly inquired into, even if their conclusion in favor of the existence of contagion had been undoubtedly correct. That it was the reverse of correct, I shall show in its proper place. With respect to quarantine establishments, even if they had been ascertained by the Committee to be efficient for their professed object, (that object being ascertained to have an existence) would it not still have been their duty to inquire, whether they were managed according to strict principles of economy, or whether they might not be equally well, or better conducted, at less expense, and with fewer stations; or, if they had been proved to be inefficient, or pernicious, to have recommended their immediate abolition, even if the existence of contagion had been unequivocally established?—Upon every imaginable ground, then, quarantine regulations did fall properly, and even imperatively, within the scope of inquiry, upon which it was incumbent on the Committee to have entered, if it was meant that their investigation should have any result.

What motives could have induced the Committee of the House of Commons to have formed a series of decisions so very extraordinary, and so little consistent with the evidence laid before them, it is no part of my business to explain. By what process of reasoning persons appointed to inquire into the validity of the doctrine of contagion in the plague, could have arrived at the conclusions, that it is immaterial, or that it is not their business to ascertain whether the effects of quarantine regulations, as the immediate