Date Published: 1878
Autograph letter signed. One page, 7 x 4-1/2 inches mounted to card. Dated June 20, 1878. To W.E. Gladstone (4 time British Prime MInister). Acknowledging receipt of a letter with enclosure concerning the case of Mrs. Weldon. Signed "Shaftesbury"
The reference to the case of Mrs. Weldon refers to her complaint was that she had been sent somewhere; that some people, for a good or a bad reason, wished to get her out of the way. Another recent trial about a man named Hillman actually was about sending him to a public asylum without proper examination by Justices. As far as he had read, there was not a single charge of misconduct against any private lunatic asylum. That being so, it was not at all a proper thing to ruin above half-a-million's worth of property, now or 15 years hence, when the improvements that were continually going on might have made private asylums even better than they were now, when no charge was made against them. If it were considered desirable, let there be another inquiry, to be followed, if necessary, by further legislation; but there was plenty for this Bill to do without burdening it with clauses for which at present there did not seem to be sufficient justification.
Prior to the Lunacy Act, lunacy legislation in England was enshrined in the County Asylums Act of 1808, which established institutions for poor and for criminally-insane, mentally ill people. The institutions were called asylums and they gave refuge where mental illness could receive proper treatment. The first asylum owing to the County Asylums Act opened at Northampton in 1811. By 1827 however only nine county asylums had opened and many patients were still in gaol as prisoners and criminals. As a consequence of this slow progress the Lunacy Act 1845 created the Lunacy Commission to focus on lunacy legislation. The Act was championed by Anthony Ashley-Cooper, Seventh Earl of Shaftesbury.
The Lunacy Act 1890 (53 Vict. ch. 5) formed the basis of mental health law in England and Wales from 1890 until 1959. It placed an obligation on local authorities to maintain institutions for the mentally ill.
Anthony Ashley Cooper, 7th Earl of Shaftesbury was a British British politician, philanthropist and one of the most effective social and industrial reformer in 19th-century England. He was also the acknowledged leader of the evangelical movement within the Church of England.
William Ewart Gladstone PC FRS FSS was a British statesman and Liberal politician. In a career lasting over 60 years, he served for 12 years as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, spread over four terms beginning in 1868 and ending in 1894. He also served as Chancellor of the Exchequer four times.