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Charles Sumner Supports Dix

Creator: Charles Sumner (author)
Date: February 25, 1843
Publication: Boston Courier
Source: Available at selected libraries


Dorothea Dix had powerful allies, many of whom became her friends. Charles Sumner, a Harvard-educated lawyer who had long been interested in the legal aspects of insanity, sided with Dix and her efforts. Sumner became a United States Senator from Massachusetts in 1851 and would go on to be one of the most powerful Republican Senators during the Civil War period. Sumner and Dix became friends during the years Dix was a lobbyist for federal legislation to support care of the indigent insane.

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In the Courier of Wednesday, it is suggested with regard to Miss Dix's memorial to the Legislature respecting the condition of the Insane Paupers in the Commonwealth, that it is extravagant -- and that suspicion is thrown on the whole of the memorial; and it is expressly stated that, "on the whole the public will be quite liberal, if they receive her facts at a discount of about fifty per cent."


It appears from an examination of the memorial that there are twelve alms-houses, which are particularly described by Miss Dix, as the scenes of painful wretchedness. These are in the towns of Danvers, Newburyport, Saugus, Ipswich, Sudbury, Wayland, Westford, Groton, Fitchburg, Bolton, Shelburne, Newton. In the course of last autumn, in company with Dr. Howe, I visited the alms-houses in four of these towns, viz Sudbury, Wayland, Westford, and Groton. I hope I shall not be deemed presumptuous, if I volunteer my testimony in support of the statement of Miss Dix with regard to these four towns. The attempt that has been made to impeach her statements, seems to render it a duty, for all who are able to throw light upon them, to do it.


I have read over carefully the account of the visit to the four alms-houses last mentioned, and for the sake of humanity, I am sorry to be obliged to add that is accords almost literally with the condition of things at the time of my own visit. It seems superfluous to attempt to describe these scenes anew. But even the vivid picture by Miss Dix does not convey an adequate idea of the condition of the unfortunate sufferers in the alms-house at Wayland.


The correctness with which Miss Dix has described these four alms-houses, which I have seen, leads me to place entire confidence in her description of the other eight.