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Our reference in a previous chapter to the singular superstitions
connected with the treatment of the insane in Scotland, renders it
unnecessary to do more than point out in this place the substratum of
popular opinion and feeling, upon which the infusion of new ideas and a
scientific system of treatment had to work. To some extent it was the
same in other countries, but judging from the records of the past, as
given or brought to light by writers like Heron, Dalyell, and Dr.
Mitchell, no country ever exceeded Scotland in the grossness of its
superstition and the unhappy consequences which flowed from it. When we
include in this the horrible treatment of the insane, from the prevalent
and for long inveterate belief in witchcraft, we cannot find language
sufficiently strong to characterize the conduct of the people, from the
highest to the lowest in the land, until this monstrous belief was
expelled by the spread of knowledge, the influence of which on conduct
and on law some do not sufficiently realize.

The lunatic and the witch of to-day might aptly exclaim--

"The good of ancient times let others state;
I think it lucky I was born so late."

As regards the property of the insane, the Scotch law, from a remote
period, appears to have been that the ward and custody of it belonged to
the prince as pater patriae. In the beginning of the fourteenth
century, the keeping and custody of persons of "furious mind," by a
statute of Robert I., devolved upon their relatives, and, failing them,
on the justiciar or sheriff of the county. The custody of "fatuous
persons" is said to have been committed to the next agnate (nearest male
relative on the father's side), while that of the "furious" was
entrusted to the Crown, "as having the sole power of coercing with

An Act passed in 1585, c. 18, in consequence of abuses in regard to the
nominations of tutors-at-law, provided that the nearest agnate of the
lunatic should be preferred to the office of tutor-at-law. The practice
was originally to issue one brieve, applicable to both furiosity and
fatuity. The statute just mentioned continues the regula regulans, as
to the appointment of tutors-at-law for lunatics.

Passing over two centuries, I must observe that in 1792 Dr. Duncan (the
physician mentioned at p. 122 of this work), then President of the Royal
College of Physicians of Edinburgh, laid before that body a plan for
establishing a lunatic asylum in the neighbourhood of Edinburgh. That
plan, after due consideration, met with the unanimous approval of the
Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons, and a subscription was at once set
on foot to carry it into execution, nearly every Fellow of both Colleges
contributing something. But enough money was not then raised to start
the project in a practical way. Fourteen years afterwards, the attention
of the legislature was directed to the provision for the insane in
Scotland, when (in 1806) an Act (46 Geo. III., c. 156) was passed for
appropriating certain balances arising from forfeited estates in that
country to two objects, not apparently allied--the use of the British
fisheries and the erecting a lunatic asylum in Edinburgh--ichthyology
and psychology. The Act provided, among other clauses, that the Barons
of Exchequer should pay out of the unexhausted balance or surplus of the
moneys paid to them in 1784, by the Act 24 Geo. III., c. 57 (relating to
forfeited estates placed under the board or trustees), the sum of L2000
to the city of Edinburgh towards erecting a lunatic hospital. A royal
charter was obtained in 1807, and subscriptions were raised not only
from Scotland, but England, and even India, Ceylon, and the West Indies.
Madras alone subscribed L1000. The idea of the originators of the
institution was a charitable and very far-reaching one. They made
provision for three classes--paupers, intermediate, and a third in which
the patient had a servant to attend him. It may be mentioned that the
establishment of the Retreat of York and its success were constantly
referred to in appealing to the public for subs