New Brunswick. Commission on a Provincial Lunatic Asylum.

Abstract: Commission to ascertain the most eligible site, near the City of Saint John for aProvincial Lunatic Asylum, 1836.

Prior to 1836, New Brunswick had only the most meager facilities for the care and treatment of "insane persons," a temporary asylum in Saint John which housed just twenty-two people, all from Saint John County. And, even though the commissioners did not know exactly how many insane persons resided in New Brunswick (commissioners did not know whether the ratio of insane to "normal" persons was one to one thousand as in the United States or one to six hundred as in Scotland - they ultimately decided on the lower ratio), they knew that there were more than the amount interned in the temporary asylum in Saint John.

This commission contains a fairly detailed description of the physical plan of the prospective asylum, including a discussion of the "class" of patients to be housed on each floor according to their ability to pay for their board. More interesting is the Commission's discussion of the activities and living arrangements of the inmates in pursuit of curing their "disease." This commission contains a description of the sorts of amusements, religious instruction, and work- related activities in which inmates were to engage. At the heart of the findings on all these subjects was the need to keep the insane constantly engaged in activity. Of work-related activities, thought to be the crux of the treatment for the insane, the report argued, "those whose condition does not place them above the necessity of submission to toil and labour, are almost always cured." The commissioners also took a very pragmatic approach to the religion. They seemed unsure as to whether the inmates would get any spiritual relief from sermons, but noted that at the very least "that merely to arrest the attention of the insane has often no small influence on restoring reason."

Commissioners:
Charles Simonds
William H. Street
John Robertson
Thomas Paddock
Thomas Barlow
Frederick Coster

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