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First Annual Report Of The Trustees Of State Lunatic Hospital

From: Reports And Other Documents Relating To The State Lunatic Hospital At Worcester, Mass.
Creator:  Horace Mann, Bezaleel Taft, Jr., W.B. Calhoun, Alfred Dwight Foster, and F.C. Gray (authors)
Date: December 1833
Publisher: Dutton and Wentworth, Boston
Source: Available at selected libraries

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To His Excellency LEVI LINCOLN, Governor, and the Honorable Council of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.


THE subscribers, Trustees of the State Lunatic Hospital at Worcester, in compliance with the statute under which they were appointed, and by which it is made their duty, in the month of December, annually, to prepare "a full and detailed report, exhibiting a particular statement of the condition of the Hospital and of all its concerns," respectfully submit the following as their first annual




The aspects in which, as the Trustees believe, the "condition" of the Hospital will always be most anxiously regarded by the benevolent Community which founded it, are,


First -- the amount or proportion of cases in which it has restored its insane inmates to the full possession of their reason; and


Second -- the degree of relief and amendment it has afforded, in cases where an entire restoration to reason has not been accomplished.


A few preliminary considerations seem to be essential, in order justly to appreciate the prosperity of the institution, during the brief period since it was opened.


In the first place, the time has been far too short to allow the various curative means practised at the institution, to produce their full and natural effects in difficult or chronic cases of insanity. No art can suddenly restore to healthful and vigorous action even the functions of the animal system, after they have been impaired and deranged by wasting diseases or privations. But the mind is far more delicate in its organization than the body, and its sphere of possible aberration is infinitely more wide. Hence, not only is it far more susceptible of deranged and eccentric movements, but the distance to which it may be driven from its true orbit, is also infinitely greater. When fatal diseases attack the body, the principle of vitality struggles for a season, and then our physical nature ceases to suffer by ceasing to exist. But the mind finds no refuge in extinction. Its maladies arrive at no limit growing out of their own severity. As by the law of its nature its existence is perpetual, there is a natural possibility of its indefinite progression in wandering and in suffering. The crisis which in bodily diseases becomes fatal, only adds vehemence to those of the mind. While high degrees of actual violence will crush and overwhelm the body at once, suspending all its functions forever, the mind will survive even a dissevered consciousness, and, as it still lives on, will bring into alternate action its various capacities of pain. Hence it must be apparent, that, during the few months since the institution was organized, scarcely sufficient time has yet elapsed, especially in cases of long continuance and of an aggravated character, to begin the great work of reducing to order a chaotic intellect. A miracle alone would have sufficed to substitute new classes of ideas and sentiments, and to superinduce, among them, new habits of association, instead of those which, from long duration and intense activity, had become almost like organic laws of thought and feeling.


The first patient was received into the Hospital on the nineteenth day of January last. Since that time one hundred and sixty-four have been admitted. The average time of their residence here has been about six months. The common mode of estimating cares, is by an annual per centage. In the report of the Superintendent, the per centage is shown, not for a period of twelve but of six months only.


Another obstacle to success has existed in the peculiar character and condition of the patients sent to the Hospital. Other institutions, both in Europe and America, which have exhibited the most remarkable proportion of cures, have discriminated in their admissions, receiving the more hopeful cases only. The inmates at Worcester have been a more select class than were ever before assembled together; but unfortunately for success in regard to cures, it has been a selection of the most deplorable cases in the whole community. Of the one hundred and sixty-four individuals received, considerably more than one half came from jails, almshouses and houses of correction, and about one third of the whole number had suffered confinement for periods varying from ten to thirty-two years. Many of these forsaken beings, during the dreadful period of their dungeon-life, had been systematically subjected to almost every form of privation and suffering. By this treatment every regular process of thought had been broken up , confusion had extended itself into every department of the intellect ; all ideas were deformed and had lost their true position and relation to each other, while the vital energies of mind sent abroad tumults of passions, that raged without object and without end. No where in this chaos did the serenity of truth or the confidence of reason prevail. The history of insanity does not furnish a single precedent which can cheer benevolence with the promise of many cures among this most deplorable class of sufferers.

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