Nothing would now be gained by an elaborate account of the Zierenberg case, or a justification of the verdict at which the jury arrived. Although it is probable that the plaintiffs suffered from the interposition of the Long Vacation between their case and that of the defendant, for the jury would naturally remember most vividly what they heard last, and although the terms of the libel in Truth were, perhaps, at some points stronger than the evidence warranted, it is impossible to doubt that the verdict was a right one. It is clear (1) that the plaintiffs were coarse, ignorant, and interested people, utterly unfit to have the care of inebriates, and (2) that the régime of the St. James's Home reproduced many of the worst abuses of the old asylum system which Lord Shaftesbury, who, by a strange irony of fortune, was once its President, did so much to destroy—the want of scientific or even rational classification, and the ancient, weary round of seclusion, harsh words, and blows. The reflections which the case suggests are not unimportant. It is obvious that voluntary “retreats” of this description ought to be made subject to Government inspection. It is out of the question to suppose that men of affairs like Lord Shaftesbury, Lord Aberdeen, and Mr. Samuel Morley can exercise any effective supervision over institutions of this character, or that their names are sufficient hostages to the public for their proper administration. Again, one cannot fail to observe that the disclosures in the Zierenberg case amply warrant Mr. Asquith's recent remarks to the deputation which pressed upon him the need for an amendment to the Inebriates' Acts, as to the caution with which the principle of compulsory sequestration has to be adopted and applied. It was stated in evidence that one patient at least was brought to the Zierenberg Home by a chimney sweep. It may be (Mr. Labouchere himself was, we believe, the author of the suggestion) that a contingent drawn from this humble, though deserving, section of the industrial community might profitably be added to the ranks of our “hereditary legislators.” But we have no desire to see its members, or, indeed, the members of any other class, without the special qualifications of knowledge and responsibility, left free to act as the arbiters of the liberty of habitual drunkards.
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