Literary apologies, it has been said, are either superfluous or impertinent—superfluous if the matter apologised for is of itself worthy of public regard, impertinent if it can lay claim to no such merit. Therefore it does not seem necessary on the present occasion for me to introduce the subject of asylum management with any deprecatory language. It will suffice simply to recall the fact that in this city the question has come up in an acute and even controversial form, and is deeply interesting the community in whose midst we are assembled. We may well hope that the impulse given by this discussion will leave a permanent impression throughout the length and breadth of Ireland. One thing, at any rate, we may expect—the abolition of the standing scandal that has so long permitted the insane poor to be huddled together in workhouses without the benefit of scarcely one of those ameliorative agencies elaborated by modern science wedded to a genuinely philanthropic spirit. It is an oft-told tale, and need not be repeated here. The Poor Law guardian who takes for his axiom “keep down the rates” must shut his eyes to the uncleanliness, the untidiness, the lack of discipline, the absence of proper scientific supervision, the utter discomfort which reigns everywhere—characteristics that have made the name of workhouse a byword and a reproach even among the most degraded. If at any time he is visited with a qualm of conscience, he reflects, perhaps, that the unfortunates in his charge owe their sad destiny to God, or Fate, or Nature, and that anything done for them robs the ratepayer of that which, not enriching them, leaves him poor indeed. These institutions are cheap, but if there is any warning writ more largely than another for the behoof of all future lunacy reform in Ireland, it is surely that supplied by our workhouses against a parsimonious and pettifogging spirit in our provisions for the insane.
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