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Modern Persecution, or Married Woman's Liabilities
During the post-Civil Wars years, Elizabeth Packard was one of the key champions of rights for women and people labeled as insane. At this time, men could declare their wives insane and have them institutionalized without a public hearing—a fate that befell Elizabeth Packard in 1860. She spent three years in the Illinois State Hospital in Jacksonville, for disagreeing with her husband’s conservative religious philosophy, views on slavery, and how to raise their children.
In 1863, the asylum doctors declared her incurable and released her to her husband. He deprived her of clothing and boarded her up inside a room, actions that were illegal. She smuggled a letter to a friend, who convinced a judge to grant a writ of habeus corpus. At the trial of Packard v. Packard, the jury decided in her favor in only seven minutes.
After gained her freedom, Packard became an activist for women’s rights and personal liberty. Her writings inspired Illinois and several other states to pass laws that prevented husbands declaring their wives insane and that required jury trials before people could be committed.
Thus by a resort to deceit, and artfully wicked chicanery, these trustees -- men whom the Governor and the people had trusted as the guardians of their institution -- dared to set at naught their honor and honesty and recklessly disregard the known wishes of the Governor -- the Committee -- the Legislature -- and the people of Illinois -- who had every reason to believe they would do their duty, and carry out the wishes of their constituents by removing this, their unprincipled public servant, in the manner prescribed by law.
This persistent determination on the part of the Trustees to sustain the Doctor in defiance of public sentiment, of truth, honor or justice, demonstrated the fact that policy not principle influenced their action in this matter; thus proving without a question, that they deserve the same condemnation the Superintendent receives from the verdict of the people.
The names of these Trustees are:
E. G. MINER, President.
It had been only about two weeks since this board had been re-appointed, and now, after breaking their solemn promise to the Governor to do the special work for which he had re-elected them, they resigned, leaving it incumbent on Governor Palmer to appoint a new board, which he did.
This board did not deem it their duty to undo the work of their predecessors, but only to take the institution as they found it, and discharge its appropriate duties.
Thus was Dr. McFarland's exit deferred.
As the Legislature would not meet again for two years he would have, in the mean time, an opportunity to show to the world that he was not discharged as the result of the investigation, but as he remained in his office the natural inference would be that his character was vindicated!
But it was not.
The unmistakable voice of the people uttered its condemnation too distinctly to venture another expression of its wishes through the coming Legislature.
To avoid this, he therefore resigned before the meeting of the next Legislature, and his resignation was accepted and another appointed and installed in his place.
Dr. McFarland still resides in Jacksonville, in a house which he has built upon his large farm, which lie has so long cultivated by the unpaid labor of Illinois State prisoners, who have been falsely represented as Dr. McFarland's patients, when in reality they were his slaves.
From the avails of this labor, thus purloined, he has received a remunerative income, by which, added to the other robberies he has made upon the State's appropriated funds for their Asylum, he has become quite wealthy.
One of this Investigating Committee remarked to me in view of the deceit and chicanery developed by the investigation:
"I never saw such an exhibition of artifice, deceit and double dealing and robbery and purloining of public treasure in any department of society as was developed by the practices of this corrupt Superintendent."
Rumor says, that Dr. McFarland is intending to convert his house to a private asylum, hoping the public will still patronize him as an expert in the cure of insanity!
But if the number he has cured by his treatment were balanced by the number he has killed and made hopelessly inane, it is my opinion the scales would indicate a decided balance in favor of those he has murdered and made insane maniacs, over the number he has cured.
And besides those he claims as his cured patients, are in a majority of cases those who were cured in spite of his treatment rather than in consequence of it. Like the infants thrown into the Ganges, those who are devoured and drowned are the rule, while those who escape this fate are the exceptions.
As far as treatment is concerned, the most indifferent nurse could do more towards curing an insane person than I ever knew Dr. McFarland to do, either directly or indirectly. For what one physician said of his treatment at Utica Asylum, New York, might with truth be said of many of the patients in Jacksonville Asylum while I was there, namely:
He said in consequence of loss of property and failure in business he became melancholy and partially insane and his friends advised that he go to the asylum at Utica, N. Y., for treatment. He went, and while riding over the country which intervened between his home and the asylum, a distance of several days' ride in a private vehicle, his mind became so diverted by the scenery of the country through which he passed, and the varied and new surroundings of asylum life, that before he had been in the asylum twenty-four hours he became entirely sane.
Now comes in the "treatment" he received. For three years after his reception for "treatment," the doctor never even so much as spoke to him, much less treated him medically!
He was kept a close prisoner five years, when he succeeded in making his escape, and has since been a successful practitioner of medicine. He asserts that he was just as sane all these five years as he is at present, and would have been there still had he been dependent upon the Superintendent for his discharge.