Page:Remarks on the British Quarantine Laws.djvu/19

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British Quarantine Laws.


board of health in Britain." (p. 453.) Again: "A board, whose only business had been the regulating of quarantines, would in all probability have proceeded upon better information, would have been better prepared for the various cases that present, and would not have issued such fluctuating orders." (p. 461.) In another place he says: "Upon the whole, there appears reason for thinking, that the management of quarantine should be entrusted to a council of health, distinct from the Privy Council." (p. 466.) And a little farther: "If, on the one hand, such a council, inflexible in well-founded resolutions, would be less accessible to private solicitation; on the other, the merchant would know better on what he had to depend; he would be less disposed to speculate by wavering orders, and would have less to fear the influence of powerful intercession obtaining unequal indulgencies. The inevitable hardships upon commerce, in suspected times, would be common to all, and would never be imposed but upon solid presumptions of necessity." (p. 467.)

I agree with Dr. Russell in considering the discretionary power conferred on the Privy Council by the quarantine law, as wholly unconstitutional, and altogether improper; (p. 505-6) and I farther assert that it would be so were the dangers, which it was the intention to obviate, real. But I do not, by any means, agree with him, that this discretionary power, in matters of quarantine, could be more safely entrusted in the hands of a council of health, or that such board, composed of a few individuals of inferior rank, would be either more competent to the duty to be performed, or less accessible to the operation of undue motives, than the Privy Council of the nation. Whilst the regulation of the whole external commerce of the country is, on account of a chimera, to be placed at the disposal of any tribunal, it is much better that the power of restraint should remain where it is, than descend to inferior hands. The two Russells (Alexander and Patrick, brothers) had, from their long residence in Turkey, been accounted leading authorities upon the subject of the plague. But, besides having their minds super-saturated with the general error of contagion, it is quite obvious, from what I have already quoted from Dr. P. Russell's Treatise, as well as from some passages of Dr. A. Russell's Letter to Lord Chatham, that the establishment of a board of health in London, subjected to medical jurisdiction, was an object which they had much at heart. This inference is clearly deducible from the following passage especially: "The whole of the health officers, throughout the kingdom, ought to be under the direction of the board of health in London, consisting chiefly of gentlemen, who have seen something of quarantine abroad, and who would be induced by their public spirit to serve