Proceedings of the Court

Lord Provost Manderston having been called to the Chair, the Clerk, Mr A. Boswell, read a very distinct report of the results and general features of the transactions at the Infirmary and Queensberry House Hospital for the last year. The Lord Provost then named a Committee to examine the Treasurer’s accounts, &c., and report to the adjourned meeting to be held in February next.

Mr John Witham junior then rose, and requested leave to submit a few observations to the consideration of the Court. He stated in substance that, though aware of its not being usual to vote thanks to the Managers until their accounts have been examined, he was yet anxious to embrace the first opportunity of expressing his conviction that the exertions of the Managers had, at last, placed this valuable Institution on a most desirable footing. Although he had not visited the Hospital for the last twelve months, he had not ceased to take an interest in its welfare ; and it was with great pleasure that he now stated, that whether his inquiries were made of the medical attendants, or of recent patients, the answers were uniformly satisfactory. The Hospital was favoured with a good Matron, between whom and the medical gentlemen the best understanding existed ; and the various salutary regulations of the Managers have led to such a prosperous state of things, as justly to entitle them to the gratitude of this Court and the public. Still, however, he must say, that although the Hospital was in a good state, yet, in his mind, Visitors could not fall to afford that assistance to the Managers here, and that security against internal abuses, which they had done in so many other similar institutions. It was difficult to account for the prejudices which existed against this species of assistance in Edinburgh. At Leeds, in addition, to visitors of our sex, there was a committee of ladies, who visisted the female wards, and from the joint labours of both classes of visitors many and great advantages had resulted. But in this city we had hospitals for females, which are governed by men only, without seeking any help from visitors of that sex, who are much better qualified to discharge most of the duties. This view of these matters, he trusted, would yet be attended to.–He must also crave the attention of the meeting to another matter, that of the L.11,700, for which the city of Edinburgh pays only 4 1/2 per cent. He assured the Court, and its Honoured Chairman, that this subject was not introduced with the view of touching upon, or insinuating any thing respecting the city’s affairs. The money, he understood, was secured on the ale duty ; but why should the Hospital lose one-half per cent, of interest? He had once made a calculation, according to which the loss, from the beginning, had amounted to about L.10,000. It had been stated that the Magistrates of Edinburgh had always been friendly to the Hospital ; but that was surely no reason for withholding L.59 of interest that whatever former Magistrates had thought on the subject the present would not submit to the idea of depriving the Hospital of any part of its lawful interest. If the ground on which the Hospital was built was alluded to, it was plain that town had already got more, by the reduced interest than its original value. The town of Edinburgh had also got L.8273 ; 17 ; 3 of invalid money from Government, on condition of paying the interest to the Infirmary, which inte- rest, if paid at two terms in the years, should be restricted to 3 1/2 per cent. And as the property tax–which the Town did not retain from the Hospital, whether they did or did not pay it to Government,–is now at an end, he could see no reason for withholding the usual rate of interest. He concluded by suggesting the names of several gentlemen as a Committee, to lend out the sum of L.11,700 on interest at 5 per cent, if the Magistrates of Edinburgh should decline to pay that rate of interest.

Mr Alex. Cruishank seconded the motion

Col. Crichton regretted that the respectable gentlemen should have introduced such a motion. He seldom visisted the Infirmary, but when he sent patients to it ; but he could state, that when his servants or workmen have been there from fever, the attention they received was in every respect equal to what he, and he hoped he was a respectable citizen, could command in his own house. But he could mention the testimony of one whose authority was much higher than his own – that of a medical gentlemen of some eminence in his profession, who lives abroad, and who was recently in this country. That professional gentleman spoke the very highest terms both of the medical treatment and the economy of the House. It was matter of pride, he said, to every Scotsman, to hear the manner in which the Infirmary of Edinburgh was spoke of in all the quarters of the globe. It was the pattern of all that was excellent in such institutions, and a nursery of the most skilfull practitioners ; for go where we will, the answer to almost every question put with respect to improved hospital treatment is, that it was learned in the Infirmary of Edinburgh. Whether, indeed, we thought of these things ; whether we looked at the sublime inscriptions on the outside of the Hospital, and the Christain doctrines and principles there inculcated or the treatement and management within we could not fail to be struck with admiration and without imputing any motives, which he was not entitled to do he must say, it would be much more creditable to the respectable gentlemen if they should confine themselves to expressing their high opinion of the institution and tanking the Managers instead of occupying the valuable time of this Honourable Court with quibbling about trifles, which were every way contemptible. After a pause, Col. Crichton made a counter motion, to get rid of Mr Wigham’s.

Lord Meadowbank reminded the Court, that this matter of interest had already been under the consideration of a Committee, and decided on by the Court.

Henry Jardine, Esq. begged to mention a fact that the Town of Edinburgh had contributed L.50 to the Infirmary for the last year.

Mr Ritchie rose and said, that though perfectly aware of what the result would be, he could not allow the matter to be settled without giving Mr Wigham’s motion his support. It gave him much pleasure to find it was no longer unfashionable to allude to Christian doctrines in such meetings as this,–a change from which he anticipated much good. He concurred in what had been said on this subject by the gentleman at the foot of the Table ; but he begged to remind him that it was a great principle of Christianity, that nothing was too trifling to be attended to it it promised good; and the additional interest of the money in question would obviously extend the means of healing the sick, the great object of the Institution. Nothing, indeed, which had fallen from that gentleman, or the Learned Lord on the other side, could meet or touch the simple proposition, that five per cent is the legal rate of interest, and that the Town of Edinburgh ought not to pay less.

There was another subject alluded to by Mr Wigham, on which, if Mr W. did not, he would submit a motion, namely, Visitori ‘And this he conceived was the fittest time for appointing them. All sides of the house were, now agreed that the Hospital was admirably conducted. It was impossible, therefore, to suppose that the measure was proposed from any distrust of the Managers. If the management was perfect now, it was too much to expect it could continue so ; and this was the proper time for providing against the future. In other places the highest characters in the land had acted with visitors ; and much benefit had been derived from them in England, and even at Glasgow. If human nature, therefore, was not different in Edinburgh from wht it is on the other side of the Tweed, and in the west of Scotland, it must be admitted that Visitors would be beneficial here also. Besides, as the Managers were aware of their strength, and that no measure could be carried here without their consent, the granting of Visitors would be a boon from themselves. He moved, that this Court do annually name 24 or more Visitors to act monthly by rotation, and minute such observations as shall occur to them for the consideration of the Managers.

Mr Wigham seconded the motion ; but as the Court seemed averse to entertain it, it was withdrawn.

Mr Ritchie then said, that as his last motion was intended chiefly as a caveat to the Committee named by the Lord Provost, he would also, with the same view, state the nature of a motion which he wished to submit, but the merits of which he was not then fully prepared to state. it was one, however, of which he was sure it would not be said, that it was introduced for the purpose of giving trouble, or unnecessarily occupying the time of the Court. Its object was the promotion of medical science, and its nature would be understood by his reading a single paragraph from the able Clinical Reports of Dr Duncan junior. ” Almost all hospitals (it is there stated,) publish annual Reports; but in many cases they are intended only to furnish information as to the expenditure of the funds, and the names of the office-bearers, and as a public acknowledgement of the support of the subscribers. Such reports, however, are of no use in marking the progress of disease, and, except for purposes mentioned above, do positive harm, by causing hospital reports in general to be neglected as utterly without value. This, however, is not the case ; and the reports we have of late years received from the Fever Hospitals of Dublin and Cork are worthy of being imitated by hospitals of every kind and in every place. Indeed, the public have a right to expect this information in return for their liberality in supporting them. We have only to add, that the most valuable reports often proceed entirely from the zeal of the reporters, and are only occasional. This leads us to suggest, that the governors of hospitals should enjoin their regular as a duty upon their medical officers ; and we will venture to say, that where it has not yet been practised, its good effects upon the institution in an economical as well as professional points of view, will soon be apparent.”–His motion went to carry this suggestion into effect ; and without farther preface he should now read it. The substance of it was, that in addition to the Journal kept at present, Digest of the whole should be kept in a tabular form but especially of the date of admission, age, sex, and place of residence of the patients ; date of commencement, crisis, termination and assigned causes of their diseases ; with a diary of the temperatures and moisture of the atmosphere, state of winds, prices of staple provisions &c. ; with an annual medical report, taking notice of the increase or decrease of population, and of the employment, diet and habits of the labouring classes, as far as practicable. Some of the members, he observed, seemed to be amused with this enumeration ; but the medical gentlemen would be aware of what he pointed at. With their peculiar and proper duties, he had no wish to interfere. They knew them well, and discharged them faithfully and honourably. In their practise they attended to every thing that was necessary ; but their knowledge often died with him ; and his object was to preserve the results of their skill and experience.

The Lord President said he hoped the gentlemen who had made this motion, would see, on reflection, from the labour and time requisite to carry it into effect, how very impracticable it would be in an hospital like that of the Royal Infirmary, where the Managers had no compulsory authority over the medical gentlemen, whose time was so occupied with their own private avocations.

The Proposer of the motion said, that instead answering what had fallen from the Right Honourable Judge in his own language, he would beg leave to read another passage from Dr Duncan’s voluble publication, and which, he hoped, would obviate some of the difficulties adverted to. ” The trouble (says Dr Duncan,) of keeping such tabular records, is not so great as might be supposed. It requires only system and regularity; and when we see how easily it is done in the military hospital, we cannot help regretting that it is not also in- troduced general into civil hospitals. If the practitioner himself has not time to fill up the columns of the prescribed table, it would be very little additional trouble to his clerk ; or if the time of that assistant would not easily permit him, the duty would be very gladly taken by another of the Hospital pupils.

Dr Hope, in a neat and eloquent speech, opposed the motion. The Managers, he said, were willing to give due consideration to every proposal from whatever quarter it might come. The present, however, he considered as impractiable. To prepare tabular records of the nature suggested, required great experience, much comprehension and many talents. It was a task which every one was not qualified to discharge in a mnner could be beneficial to the public, and one which gentlemen, who lived by their profession, could not be expected to undertake. The case was different in military hospitals, where the medical getlmen could devote the whole of their time to their hospital duties. But it should be know, that the materials for making up such tables are all recorded in the infirmary Journals ; and that these Journals are open to all the medical attendants; so that whoever finds that he has time and talents for the performance of such tasks, has the fullest opportunity for undertaking and completing them. Accordingly we had had the very able reports of Dr Duncan, and the useful work of Dr Welsh. The Institution has now the benefit of Dr Duncan’s services ; and he considered it better to leave the completion of such works and reports to the zeal and talents of individuals.

The Mover then stated that he was perfectly aware of Dr. Welsh’s judicious publication as well as Dr Duncan’s and he certainly would never have introduced such a measure, had it not been suggested and recommended by a much abler mind than his own. He had not undertaken the task from any idea that he was able to do it justice, or that he could do it better, or even so well as many other members of the Court ; but from the conviction, that if he had not introduced the subject, it would be introduced at all. He had no wish, however to give unnecessary trouble, and should, therefore, for the present, beg leave to withdraw his motion.

Form of Process in the Justiciary Court.

Our readers will learn with pleasure, that the Lord Advocate, with a laudable anxiety for the honour of our criminal jurisprudence, has announced officially, that the Clerk of Court “strikes the Jury, by taking 45 after 45, until they served in rotation. ” They consist of a ” list of Jurymen furnished by the High Constables” for Edinburgh and those “regularly required from the counties of Linlithgow and Haddington,” which names ” were then put upon a roll, which was put into the bands of the Clerk of Court;”– the Jurors thus struck being cited, not by a Sheriff officer, but by a Macer of the Justiciary ourt. We are not aware of any law which requires the Clerk of Court to take the Jurors by rotation ; but it reflects great credit on his judgement that he resorts to this unequivocal mode of displaying his impartiality. This is a virtue which the law requires in all its officers ; and it is fortunate when such rules are devised and adhered to as make the virtue incontrovertibly visible. At such an advanced stage of society, honour and public opinion will secure impartial justice ; but still, when the possibility of some retrograde movement is adverted to, it would be a wise measure to convert what all functionaries do at present from principle, into specific rules for directing the conduct of their successors. The Lord Advocate, it has been reported, is about to introduce into Parliament a Bill or Bills respecting the Judicatories of Scotland ; and his Lordship, it is obvious, might obtain a well-merited popularity by throwing in some clauses to fix the qualifications of a Juror in the different counties of Scotland, and to regulate the times and the manner in which lists of Jurors are to be made up, reduced into a penl of 45, and then to a jury of 15. Ther is, if we mistake not, a cerain discretion on more than one of these points left with functionaries, who, we doubt not, would most readily part with it. To them it would be a relief ; and though the arraigned might sometimes have less impartial juries than at present, yet, if the ballot were introduced here, as it has recently been in civil cases, the impartiality would be more coguisable, and placed beyond the reach of doubt and misrepresentation. It would be no disgrace to Scotland to borrow in this respect from her sister kingdom, but an honour which France seems willing to do herself at present, and which we very lately did ourselves in modelling our Jury Court.

Mr Bywater has construced a small model of a ship in such a manner as to exhibity, by actual experiment, the principal magnetic phenomena mentioned by Captain Flinders, in his voyage to New Holland. From a minute attention to the subject, Mr B. has devised a plan, which, in all probability, will remedy, by very simple means, the defect arising from the local attraction pointed out by Captain Flinders, and thus be of real advantage to the science of navigation. A drawing of this plan (as it will be important to ships of war) has been sent to the Admiralty.

Citation: Scotsman (Edinburgh, United Kingdom), 08 January 1820, available at the Scissors and Paste Database,