Towards the Asylum: Civil and Urgency Procedures (1839-1890)

Formal confinement of the insane in Upper Canada begun with a state-sponsored initiative (Brown, 1980). On May 11 1839, the provincial parliament approved an “Act to authorise the erection of an asylum within this province for the reception of insane and lunatic persons” (SUC, 1839, Chap. XI). This statute represented one of the earliest laws for the institutional care of the insane in Canada (Moran, 2000). Echoing the opinion of early promoters in England, France, and the US, the 1839 Act praised the establishment of a publicly funded asylum as a “necessary” reform (Sec. I). While a Temporary Asylum opened on January 21 1841 so to offer provisional care during the working period, a specific group of commissioners was appointed to purchase land and monitor the construction of the building (Bazar, 2007; Terbenche, 2011). Inspired by the model of the Worcester asylum in Massachusetts (Hudson, 2000), the commissioners thought it would have been beneficial for patients’ recovery to erect the building far from the city center since it was believed that individuals could better recuperate in the peaceful environment of the countryside (Edginton, 1994).

Form 51

However, the urbanization of Toronto and the birth of the local community of Parkdale in the 1870s, just west of the institution, led to the reabsorption of this mental hospital back into the city. In the 40-year period after 1851, Toronto’s population increased by five times, from 30,000 to 150,000 and by the mid-twentieth century, the core city alone was teeming 675,000 people, while the suburbs had another 360,000 inhabitants (Reaume, 2000). Though there was talk of closing down this location entirely, especially during the first two decades of the twentieth century, this never happened until 1976. To this day, the headquarter of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) stands on the very same grounds of the original asylum opened in 1850 (Court, 2008). Hence, the institution was located about one kilometer north of the shores of Lake Ontario and was placed on unoccupied farm land, away from the bustling core of the nearby city. The Toronto Provincial Lunatic Asylum officially opened its doors on January 26 1850 and it was advertised as the first purpose-built institution for the insane in Ontario (Reaume, 2000). In the future, it would serve as the prototype for the subsequent institutions opening across other provinces (Court, 2000).

 

How did people end up in a lunatic asylum such as this? Throughout the nineteenth-century, asylum admission constituted a differentiated process. People could be confined in public institutions following two major procedures, namely the civil and the urgency (Bartlett, 2000). The civil procedure, sometimes referred to as the “ordinary procedure” (SO, 1873, Chap. XXI), mainly concerned with the medical recognition of a case of insanity within the community. It involved the participation of a variable number of physicians and local authorities such as Judges, Justices of the Peace, and even Clergymen, who were supposed to examine the patient and to make inquiry into his/her whereabouts. Depending on the specific situation, the examination could result in a shared statement about patient’s insanity and consequent recommendation for asylum treatment. In Upper Canada, from 1839 to 1873, civil confinement of the insane has been regulated by provincial statutes dealing with asylum management. Despite several adjustments and additional provisions, for more than thirty years, civil committal to the Provincial Lunatic Asylum has involved “at least three resident practicing physicians” who were required to “collectively examine” the insane with the approval of a local authority (SUC, 1839, Chap. XI; SUC, 1853, Chap. 188; SUC, 1859, Chap. LXXI; SO, 1871, Chap. XVIII). The main document for registering civil committals was called “Form of Admission of a Patient to the Provincial Lunatic Asylum at Toronto”, or more simply “Form of Admission”. It included signatures from three physicians, approval from a local authority, and a list of standardized questions describing the “History of the Patient”. This form, therefore, accompanied the patient to the asylum’s doors and it constituted a sufficient authority for the asylum board or superintendent to receive the person.

 

Besides this civil procedure, people could also end up in public institutions for the insane through a different path. A second process, indeed, allowed police authorities to apprehend an insane person who was found to have committed or attempted to commit criminal offences (Reaume, 2000). Differently to the civil process,  it was mainly in charge of police officers who had the power to arrest individuals on the basis of dangerousness. After a quick evaluation of the episode, Justices of the Peace conveyed the alleged insane to local gaols for a temporary staying so to verify the state of derangement (Wright, 2005). If the insanity of the prisoner appeared to be persistent, public authorities with the help of one or two gaol surgeons could require the inmate to be transferred to the provincial asylum. In Upper Canada, this procedure of committal was introduced in 1851 and it represented a valid option throughout the nineteenth-century (Bill No. 273, 1851; SO, 1869, Chap. XXXII). Sources of urgency committal were different from those previously considered. Whereas civil confinement was regulated with “Forms of Admission”, urgency committals were administered through “Warrants of Removal” or “Transfer Warrants” signed by the secretary of the Lieutenant-Governor (Bill No. 273, 1851, Sec. IV). These documents consisted of a standard formula declaring that the prisoner was found to be insane and that he/she had to be removed from the gaol and transferred to the lunatic asylum.

 

The earliest record of a “Warrant of Removal” at the Toronto asylum is dated June 7 1852. It ordered the transfer of Nancy B., a prisoner of the “Common Gaol of the United Counties of Essex and Hamilton” who was arrested “for disorderly conduct” and transferred to the Provincial Lunatic Asylum (RG 10-268, B296106, Warrant N° 1185). Starting in 1869, Warrants of Removal also included a list of standardized questions describing patient’s history signed by the gaol surgeon. This template named “Queries to be answered before the Admission of a Patient to the Lunatic Asylum”, included patient’s generalities and investigated the same areas that were required for cases of civil committal, such as “supposed cause of insanity”, “delusions”, and “habits of of the patient as to temperance, industry, and general conduct” (RG 10-268, B296097).

warrant 6

Primary Sources

Archives of Ontario,

RG 10-268 – Queen Street Mental Health Centre admission warrants and histories

Containers from 1 to 7 for the series 1851-1873

LegislationsOntario/Upper Canada

Statutes of Upper Canada (1839) An Act to authorise the erection of an Asylum within this Province, for the reception of Insane and Lunatic persons, Chap. XI., 2nd Victoria, Fourth Session.

Bill No. 273 (1851) An Act for making provision for the confinement and maintenance of Lunatics and other persons of unsound mind charged with or convicted of offences; or whom, from the character of their malady. it may be dangerous to permit to go abroad, Fourth Session, 3rd Parliament, 14 & 15 Victoria.

Statutes of Upper Canada (1853) An Act for the better management of the Provincial Lunatic Asylum at Toronto, Chap. 187-188.

Consolidated Statutes of Upper Canada (1859) An Act respecting the Provincial Lunatic Asylum at Toronto, Chap. LXXI.

Statutes of Ontario (1871) An Act respecting Asylums for the Insane, Chap. XVIII.

Statutes of Ontario (1873) An Act to make further Provision as to the Custody of Insane Persons, Chap. XXXI.

Secondary Sources

Baehre, R. (1995). Imperial Authority and Colonial Officialdom of Upper Canada in the 1830s: The State, Crime, Lunacy and Everyday Social Order. In L. Knafla & S. Binnie (Eds.), Law, Society and the State: Essays in Modern Legal History. Toronto: Toronto University Press.

Bartlett, P. (2000). Structures of Confinement in 19th-Century Asylums: A Comparative Study Using England and Ontario. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, 23, 1-13.

Bazar, J. (2007). Patients, Dr. Workman and Life at the Provincial Lunatic Asylum in Toronto. History and Philosophy of Psychology Bulletin, 19(1), 4–10.

Bazar, J. (2013). Objects of Daily Life: Materiality in North American Institutions for the Insane. PhD thesis, York University, CA.

Berrios, G. (1996). A History of Mental Symptoms: Descriptive Psychopathology since the Nineteenth Century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Beveridge, A. (1995). Madness in Victorian Edinburgh: A study of patients admitted to the Royal Edinburgh Asylum under Thomas Clouston, 1873-1908 Part I. History of Psychiatry, 6(21), 21–54.

Blocker, J. S. (1989). American Temperance Movements: Cycles of Reform. New York, NY: Twayne Publishers.

Brown, T. (1980). ‘Living with God’s Afflicted’: A History of the Provincial Lunatic Asylum at Toronto, 1830-1911.PhD thesis, Queen’s University.

Brown, T. E. (1984). The Origins of the Asylum in Upper Canada, 1830-1839: Towards and interpretation. Canadian Bulletin of Medical History, 1(1), 27–58.

Canguilhem, G. (1966). Le normal et le pathologique. Paris: Éditions Gallimard.

Castel, R. (1977). L’Ordre psychiatrique: L’âge d’or de l’aliénisme.Paris: Les Editions de Minuit.

Chavigny, K. A. (2004). Reforming Drunkards in Nineteenth-Century America: Religion, Medicine, Therapy. In, S. W. Tracy & C. J. Acker (Eds.), Altering American Consciousness: The History of Alcohol and Drug Use in the United States, 1800–2000. Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press.

Court, J. P. M. (2000). From 999 to 1001 Queen Street: A Consistently Vital Resource, In E. Hudson (Ed.), The Provincial Asylum in Toronto: Reflections on Social and Architectural History. Toronto: Toronto Architectural Conservancy.

Court, J. P. M. (2008). The Stricklands at Queen Street. Ars Medica: A Journal of Medicine, the Arts, and Humanities, 5(1), 4–8.

Court, J. P. M., Simpson, A. I. F., & Webster, C. (2014). Contesting Mad versus Bad: The Evolution of Forensic Mental Health Services and Law at Toronto. Psychiatry, Psychology and Law, 21(6), 918-936.

Craig, B. L. (1989). Hospital Records and Record-Keeping, c.1850-c.1950 Part I : The Development of Record-Keeping in Hospitals. Archivaria,29, 57–87.

Craig, B. L. (1990). Hospital Records and Record-Keeping, c.1850-c.1950 Part II: The Development of Record-Keeping in Hospitals. Archivaria, 30, 21–38.

Cryle, P., & Stephens, E. (2017). Normality: A critical Genealogy. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Daston, L., & Galison, P. L. (2007). Objectivity. New York, NY: Zone Books.

Davidson, A. I. (2004). The emergence of sexuality: Historical epistemology and the formation of concepts. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Dyck, E., & Deighton, A. (2017). Managing madness: Weyburn Mental Hospital and the transformation of psychiatric care in Canada. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press.

Dörner, K. (1969). Bürger und Irre: Zur Sozialgeschichte und Wissenschaftssoziologie der Psychiatrie. Frankfurt am Main: Europäische Verlagsanstalt.

Dunlop, J. (2006). Politics, Patronage and Scandal at the Provincial Lunatic Asylum, 1848-1857. Ontario History, 98(2), 183–208.

Edginton, B. (1994). The well-ordered body: The quest for sanity through nineteenth-century asylum architecture. Canadian Bulletin of Medical History/Bulletin canadien d’histoire de la medicine, 11, 375-386.

Eghigian, G. (Ed.). (2017). The routledge history of madness and mental health. London: Routledge.

Ernst, W. (Ed.). (2006). Histories of the normal and the abnormal: social and cultural histories of norms and normativity. London: Routledge.

Ernst, W., & Müller, T. (Eds.) (2010). Transnational psychiatries: Social and cultural histories of psychiatry in comparative perspective, c. 1800-2000. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars.

Foucault, M. (1961). Folie et Déraison: Histoire de la folie à l’âge classique. Paris: Librarie Plon.

Foucault, M. (1978). The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1: An Introduction. New York, NY: Pantheon Books.

Foucault, M. (2003). Abnormals: Lectures at the Collège de France (1974-1975). London: Verso.

Foucault, M. (2006). Psychiatric power: Lectures at the Collège de France (1973-74). Basingstoke, NH: Palgrave Macmillan.

Frances, A. (2013). Saving normal: an insider’s revolt against out-of-control psychiatric diagnosis, DSM-5, Big Pharma, and the medicalization of ordinary life. New York, NY: William Morrow.

Goldstein, J. E. (1987). Console and classify: The French psychiatric profession in the nineteenth century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Greene, J. A. (2007). Prescribing by numbers: drugs and the definition of disease. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Grob, G. N. (1973). Mental Institutions in America: Social Policy to 1875. New York: Free Press.

Grob, G. N. (1994). The Mad among Us: A History of the Care of America’s Mentally Ill.Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Johnston, C. I. M. (2000). The father of Canadian psychiatry: Joseph Workman. Victoria, B.C.: The Ogden Press.

Hess, V. (2018). Bookkeeping madness. Archives and filing between court and ward. Rethinking History, 22(3), 302–325.

Hudson, E. (2000). Asylum layouts. In E. Hudson (Ed.),The provincial asylum in Toronto: Reflections on social and architectural history(pp. 201-216). Toronto: Toronto Region Architectural Conservancy.

Keating, P., & Cambrosio A. (2003). Biomedical platforms: realigning the normal and the pathological in late-twentieth-century medicine. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Lunbeck, E. (1994). The Psychiatric Persuasion: Knowledge, Gender, and Power in Modern America. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Melling, J., Adair, R., & Forsythe, B. (1997). “A proper lunatic for two years”: Pauper lunatic children in Victorian and Edwardian England. Child Admissions to the Devon County Asylum, 1845-1914. Journal of Social History, 31(2), 371–405.

Melling, J., & Forsythe, B. (Eds.). (1999).Insanity, institutions and society, 1800-1914: A social history of madness in comparative perspective. London & New York: Routledge.

Melling, J., & Forsythe, B. (Eds.). (2006). The politics of madness: The state, insanity and society in England, 1845-1914. London: Routledge.

Micale, M. S., & Porter, R. (1994). Discovering the history of psychiatry. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Mitchinson, W. (1987). Gender and insanity as characteristics of the insane: A nineteenth- century case. Canadian Bulletin of Medical History/Bulletin Canadien d’histoire de la medicine, 4, 99-117.

Mitchinson, W. (1988). Reasons for Committal to a Mid-Nineteenth-Century Ontario Insane Asylum: The Case of Toronto. In W. Mitchinson & J. D. McGinnis (Eds.), Essays in the History of Canadian Medicine. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart.

Mol, A. (2002). The body multiple: ontology in medical practice. Durham: Duke University Press.

Moran, J. (1998). Asylum in the Community: Managing the Insane in Antebellum America. History of Psychiatry, 9(2), 217-240.

Moran, J. (2000).Committed to the State Asylum: Insanity and Society in Nineteenth-Century Quebec and Ontario. Montreal-Kingston: McGill’s-Queen’s University Press.

Moran, J. E., & Wright, D. (Eds.). (2006). Mental Health and Canadian Society: Historical Perspectives.Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Moran, J. (2018). A tale of two bureaucracies: asylum and lunacy law paperwork. Rethinking History, 22(3), 419–436.

Nocentini, A., & Parenti, A. (2013). L’Etimologico. Milano: Le Monnier.

Johnston, C. I. M. (2000). The father of Canadian psychiatry: Joseph Workman. Victoria, B.C.: The Ogden Press.

Jones, K. (1972). A History of the Mental Health Services. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

Jones, K. (1993). Asylum and After: A Revised History of the Mental Health Services. London: Athlon Press.

Parry-Jones, W. L. (1972). The Trade in Lunacy: A Study of Private Madhouses in England in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Porter, R., & Wright, D. (Eds.). (2003).The confinement of the insane: International perspectives, 1800-1965. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Reaume, G. (2000). Remembrance of Patients Past: Patient Life at the Toronto Hospital for the Insane, 1870-1940. Toronto: Oxford University Press.

Reaume, G. (2006). Patients at work: Insane Asylum Inmates’ labour in Ontario 1841-1900. In D. Wright & J. Moran (Eds.), Mental health and Canadian society: historical perspectives(pp. 69-96). Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Rothman, D. J. (1971). The discovery of the Asylum: Social Order and Disorder in the New Republic. Boston, MA: Little Brown.

Rose, N. (1985). Unreasonable Rights: Mental Illness and the Limits of the Law. Journal of Law and Society, 12(2), 199–218.

Rose, N. (2009). Normality and pathology in biomedical age. Sociological Review, 57(Suppl), 66–83.

Scull, A. (1979). Museums of Madness: The Social Organization of Insanity in Nineteenth Century England.New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press.

Scull, A. (1991a). Psychiatry and social control in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. History of Psychiatry, 2(6), 149–169.

Scull, A. (1991b). Psychiatry and its historians.History of Psychiatry, 2(7), 239–250.

Shorter, E. (1997). A history of psychiatry: From the era of the asylum to the age of Prozac. New York, NY: Wiley.

Terbenche, D. (2005). ‘Curative’ and ‘Custodial’: Benefits of Patient Treatment at the Asylum for the Insane, Kingston, 1878-1906. Canadian Historical Review, 86(1), 29-52.

Terbenche, D. A. (2010). “A soldier in the service of his country”: Dr. William Rees, Professional Identity, and the Toronto Temporary Asylum, 1819-1874. Histoire sociale/Social history, 43(85), 97-129.

Terbenche, D. A. (2011).Public Servants or Professional Alienists? Medical Superintendents and the Early Professionalization of Asylum Management and Insanity Treatment in Upper Canada, 1840-1865.PhD thesis, University of Waterloo, CA.

Wallace, E. R., & Gach, J. (2008). History of Psychiatry and Medical Psychology: With an Epilogue on Psychiatry and the Mind-Body Relation. New York, NY: Springer.

Warsh, C. (1989). Moments of Unreason: The Practice of Canadian Psychiatry and the Homewood Retreat. Montreal-Kingston: McGill’s University Press.

Wright, D. (1997). Getting out of the Asylum: Understanding the Confinement of the Insane in the Nineteenth Century. Social History of Medicine, 10(1), 137–155.

Wright, D. (1998). The Certification of Insanity in Nineteenth-Century England and Wales. History of Psychiatry, 9, 267–290.

Wright, D. (1999). The Discharge of Pauper Lunatics from County Asylums in Mid-Victorian England: The Case of Buckinghamshire 1853-1872. In M. Joseph & B. Forsythe (Eds.), Insanity, Institutions, and Society 1800-1914: A Social History of Madness in Comparative Perspective(pp. 93–112). London: Routledge.

Wright, D. (2001). Mental Disability in Victorian England: The Earlswood Asylum, 1847-1901. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Wright, D., Moran, J., & Gouglas, S. E. (2003). The confinement of the insane in Victorian Canada: the Hamilton and Toronto asylums, c. 1861-1891. In R. Porter & D. Wright (Eds.), The Confinement of the Insane, 1800-1965: International Perspectives, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, (pp. 100-128).

Wright, D. (2005). The Certification of Insanity in Nineteenth-Century England and Ontario: Medical Men as ‘Judicial Auxiliaries’. In C. Dolan (Ed.), Entre Justice et Justiciables: Les auxiliaires de la justice du Moyen Âge au XXe siècle, Québec: Les Presses de l’Université de Laval, (pp. 773–88).

1 thought on “Towards the Asylum: Civil and Urgency Procedures (1839-1890)”

Leave a Reply to ปั้มไลค์ Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s