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Foundling Hospitals

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FOUNDLING HOSPITALS are charitable institutions, which exist in most large towns of Europe, for taking care of infants forsaken by their parents, such being generally the offspring of illegitimate connexions. These institu tions date from the Middle Ages, and were established for the purpose of pre venting the destruction of children either by actual violence or by being exposed in the streets or highways. Among the Romans and other nations of antiquity, the exposure of children by poor or un feeling parents was a frequent practice, and was not punished by the laws. After Christianity became the religion of the empire, it was forbidden by the Em perors Valentinian, Valens, and Gra tian (Cod. viii. tit. 51 (52), De Infan tibus expositis,' &c.). At the same time, the greater strictness of the laws con cerning marriage and against concubi nage, the religious and moral denuncia tions against unwedded intercourse, and afterwards the obligatory celibacy intro duced among the clergy, and the severe penalties attending its infraction, all tended to increase the danger to which illegitimate infants were exposed from the sentiments of fear and shame in their parents. Child-murder and the exposure of children became nearly as frequent in Christian countries as they had been in heathen times, only the parents took greater care to conceal themselves ; and humane individuals in various countries be to devise means to collect and pro vide for the forsaken infants found in the streets. In this, as in other acts of charity, ecclesiastics stood forem ist. At Rome, Innocent III., in 1198, v ben rebuilding and enlarging the great hospital of S. Spirito, allotted a part of it to the recep tion of foundlings, several infants having been found drowned in the Tiber about that time. This asylum for the " esposti," or foundlings, was afterwards enlarged and endowed by subsequent popes, and the institution was adopted by degrees in other cities. It was thought that by pro viding a place where mothers might de posit their illegitimate children in safety without being subject to any inquiry or exposure, the frequent recurrence of the crime of child-murder would be pre vented. For this purpose a turning box was fixed in an opening of the wall in a retired part of the building, in which the child being deposited by the mother in the night, and a bell being ratig at the same time, the watch inside turned the box and took the infant, which from that moment was placed under the protection of the institution, was nursed and edit sated, and afterwards apprenticed to some trade or profession. Those parents who were in hopes of being able to acknow ledge their child at some future time, placed a mark or note with it, by which it was afterwards known when they came to claim it, and it was then restored to them on their defraying the expense in curred for its maintenance.

In France the philanthropist Vincent de Paule, the founder of the Society of the Missions, in the first half of the seven teenth century, exerted himself to found an asylum for infants, which were at that time frequently left to perish in the streets of Pans. It was at first supported by private subscriptions, but afterwards was made a national establishment— Hopital des Enfans trouves.' Similar institutions were founded in other great French cities. In 1841 there were 70,838 illegitimate children born in France— about one thirteenth of the whole number of births ; but in Paris the proportion is much greater, being one illegitimate child in every 2'7 births. Of the whole num ber of illegitimate children, about 58 out of every 100 are abandoned by their mothers and taken to the foundling hos pitals, where nearly two-thirds of them die before they are a year old. (Guerry, Statistique Morale de la France.) In 1842, out of 10,286 births of illegitimate children, 8231 were abandoned by their parent or parents, and were sent to the foundling hospital. Mortality appears to be very great in most foundling hospitals of the continent, owing to carelessness, mismanagement, or want of sufficient funds for the administration of those in stitutions. The infants are given out to cheap nurses in the country, where a great number of them die. At the same

time, it is remarkable that the number of illegitimate births has greatly increased over all Europe during the last forty years. (Benoiston de Chitteauneuf, Con siderations stir lea Elfans trouves dans les principaux Elate de l'Europe,1824.) In 1739 a charter was granted for es tablishing a foundling hospital in London. On the 26th of October, 1740, a house was opened in Hatton-Garden for the re ception of twenty children not exceeding the age of two months. The regulations stated, that "no questions whatever will be asked of any person who brings a child, nor shall any servant of the house presume to endeavour to discover who such person is, on pain of being dis charged." The number of applicants for the admission of children was so great that a balloting process was necessary in order to settle the choice of admission. In 1745 the western wing of the present hospital was opened, and the other two por tions of the building were soon built. The applications so constantly exceeded the number which the funds would support,that application was made to parliament, and in 1756 the sum of 10,0001. was granted, and the governors of the hospital were empowered to form provincial establish ments. At this period the institution was evidently popular. The act of application was rendered as little troublesome and dis agreeable as possible. A basket was hung at the gate, and the only trouble imposed on parents was the ringing of a bell as they deposited their child. On the 2nd of June, 1756, when the new system began, 117 children were received, and before the close of the year the number of children that had been adopted by the institution was 1783. The governors did not yet see the consequences of their mistaken liberality. In June, 1757, they caused notices to be advertised in the newspapers, and placards to be posted in the streets, informing all who were concerned how liberally the hospital was thrown open to them. The number of children received in 1757 was 3727. In three years and ten months from June, 1756, the number of infants received into the hospital amounted to nearly 15,000. The con veyance of children from distant parts of the country to the foundling hospital had become a regular trade. It was proved that of eight children brought up by waggon from the country seven had died. Various abuses which, strange to say, had not been foreseen developed themselves. Vigilant overseers of the poor occasion ally relieved the rate-payers by dropping into the basket at the hospital a child or two that they feared might become chargeable, or they frightened the mo thers into the act when they had no desire to part with their offspring. More over, the institution had got into full play before anything like a system of regula tions could be adopted for preserving the life and health of the foundlings, and there was even a scandalous want of wet nurses. Out of 14,934 children received in less than four years, only 4400 lived to be apprenticed. The enormous errors which had been committed by the gover nors and by parliament were now pal pably evident. In February, 1760, a re solution was passed by the House of Commons, which declared, " That the indiscriminate admission of all children under a certain age into the hospital had been attended with many evil conse quences, and that it be discontinued ;" but at this time there were nearly 6000 children in the institution, and parliament was bound to continue the grant until they were apprenticed. Between 1756 and 1771 there was voted a sum of 549,796/. towards the expenses of the hospital. The public also now perceived the evils inherent in such institutions, and popu larity was succeeded by odium, so that the governors actually passed a resolution, though afterwards rescinded, to denomi nate the establishment The Orphan Hospital: After this the governors pro ceeded more cautiously, restricted their ixertions to the scope of their own funds, nd sold their country hospitals. In '801 the practice of taking children rithout inquiry on payment of 100/. was abolished.

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