They Claim That I am Insane
February 12, 1867 — Illinois State Legislature, Springfield IL
Gentlemen of Illinois General Assembly:
Thankful for the privilege granted me, I will simply state that I desire to explain my bill rather than defend it, since I am satisfied it needs no defense to secure its passage by this gallant body of gentlemen.
I desire to make this public statement of some of the facts of my personal experience, relative to my incarceration in Jacksonville Insane Asylum, that you, the law-makers of this State, may see from the standpoint of my own individual wrongs, the legal liabilities to which all married women and infants have been exposed for the last sixteen years, to false imprisonments in Jacksonville Insane Asylum, under the act passed in 1851, viz.:
“Married women and infants who, in the judgment of the Medical Superintendent,” (meaning the Superintendent of Illinois State Hospital for the Insane,) “are evidently insane or distracted, may be entered or detained in the hospital, on the request of the husband of the woman or the guardian of the infant, without the evidence of insanity required in other cases.”
This act was nominally repealed in 1865; but, practically, is still existing, in retaining those who have been previously entered without evidence of insanity, and in receiving others, regardless of the law of ’65, which demands a fair trial of all before commitment. In short, the present law is not in all cases enforced, but this unjust law is still in practical force in many instances.
Therefore, your petitioners, men of the first legal character and standing in Chicago, in asking for the repeal of this unjust law, not only ask for the enforcement of the new law by a penalty, but also that a jury trial may be forthwith extended to the unfortunate victims of this unjust law, who are now confined in Jacksonville Insane Asylum.
In detailing the practical working of this law in my case, I must rely upon your good sense to pardon the egotistical character of the following statement.
I am a native of Massachusetts, the only daughter of an orthodox clergyman of the Congregational denomination, and the wife of a Congregational clergyman, who was preaching to a Presbyterian Church in Manteno, Kankakee Co., Ill., when this legal persecution commenced.
I have been educated a Calvinist, after the strictest sect, but as my reasoning faculties have been developed by a thorough, scientific education, I have been led, by the simple exercise of my own reason and common sense, to endorse theological views, in conflict with my educated belief and the creed of the church with which I am connected. In short, from my present standpoint, I cannot but believe that the doctrine of total depravity, (which is the great backbone of the Calvinistic system,) conflicts with the dictates of reason, common sense, and the Bible.
And, gentlemen, the only crime I have committed is to dare to be true to these, my honest convictions, and to give utterance to these views in a Bible class in Manteno, at the special request of the teacher of that class, and with the full and free consent of my husband.
But the popular endorsement of these new views by the class and the community generally, led my husband and his Calvinistic Church to fear, lest their Church creed would suffer serious detriment by this license of private judgment and free inquiry, and as these liberal views emanated from his own family, and he, (for reasons best known to himself,) declining to meet me on the open arena of argument and free discussion, chose, rather, to use this marital power which your laws license him to use, and as this unjust law permits, and got me imprisoned at Jacksonville Insane Asylum, without evidence of insanity, and without any trial, hoping, as he told me, that by this means he could destroy my moral influence, and thereby defend the cause of Christ; as he felt bound to do!
It was under these circumstances I was legally kidnapped, as your laws allow, and imprisoned three years at Jacksonville, simply for claiming a right to my own thoughts. The first intimation I had of this legal exposure, was by two men entering my room, on the 18th of June, 1860, and kidnapping me. Two of his Church-members, attended by Sheriff Burgess of Kankakee, took me up in their arms and carried me to the wagon, and thence to the cars, in spite of my lady-like protests, and regardless of all my entreaties for some sort of trial before imprisonment.
My husband replied, “I am doing as the laws of Illinois allow me to do — you have no protection in law but myself, and I am protecting you now; it is for your good I am doing this; I want to save your soul; you don’t believe in total depravity; I want to make you right.”
“Husband,” said I, “have not I a right to my opinion?”
“Yes, you have a right to your opinions if you think right.”
“But does not the constitution defend the right of religious tolerance to all American citizens?”
“Yes, to all citizens it does defend this right, but you are not a citizen; while a married woman, you are a legal nonentity, without even a soul in law. In short, you are dead as to any legal existence, while a married woman, and therefore have no legal protection as a married woman.”
Thus I learned my first lesson in that chapter of “common law,” which denies to married woman a legal right to their own individuality or identity.
Here I was taken from my little family of six children, while my babe was only eighteen months old, while in the faithful discharge of all my duties as wife and mother, having done all my own work for twenty-one years, besides educating our own children, and nearly fitting our oldest son for college; in perfect health and sound mind, and forced into an imprisonment of an indefinite length, without the mere form of a trial, and without any chance at self-defense.
True, my husband did even more than this “unjust law” demands, for he did get the certificates of two orthodox physicians that I was insane — like Henry Ward Beecher, and Horace Greeley, and Spurgeon, and three-fourths of the religious community; and, besides, he obtained the names of forty others, mostly his own Church members, who thus co-conspired to sustain their minister in this mode of defending the cause of Christ against the contagious influence of dangerous heresies and fatal errors.
The influence of the community outside of the Church was thrown into the opposite scale entirely; but their influence was overpowered by the majesty of the law, added to the dignity of the pulpit. I was conveyed by Sheriff Burgess, Deacon Dole and Mr. Packard to your State Hospital, in defiance of the indignant community who had assembled at the depot in large crowds to defend me. Dr. Simmington, the Methodist minister at Manteno, remarked to me, “Mrs. Packard, you will not be there long,” and plainly intimated that, in his opinion, no man was fit for his position who would retain such an inmate as myself.
Dr. McFarland, of course, was obliged to receive me on this superabundant testimony that I was an insane person, although he apologized to me afterwards for receiving me at all, and for four months he treated me himself, and caused me to be treated, with all the respect of a hotel boarder. He even trusted me with the entire charge of a carriage load of insane patients, and the care of my own team, fourteen times; sometimes I would be absent nearly a half day on some pleasant excursion to the fair-grounds or cemetery, and he never expressed the least solicitude for our safe return. Indeed, he trusted me almost in every situation he would trust the matron.
But, at the expiration of this time, with no change whatever in my deportment, I forfeited all his good-will and favors, by presenting him a written reproof for his abuse of his patients, which was afterwards printed, wherein I told him I should expose him when I got out, unless he treated his patients with more justice.
He then removed me from the best ward to the worst, where were confined the most dangerous class of patients, and instructed his attendants to treat me just as they did the maniacs, and be sure to keep me a close prisoner, and on no account to allow me to leave the ward, and compel me to sleep in a dormitory with from three to six crazy patients, where my life was exposed, both night as well as day, with no room of my own to flee to for safety from their insane flights and dangerous attacks.
I have been dragged around this ward by the hair of my head by the maniacs; I have received blows from them that almost killed me. My seat at the table was by the side of Mrs. Triplet, the most dangerous and violent patient in the whole ward, who almost invariably threatened to kill me every time I went to the table. I have had to dodge the knives and forks and tumblers and chairs which have been hurled in promiscuous profusion about my head, to avoid some fatal blow. I have begged and besought Dr. McFarland to remove me to some place of safety, where my life would not be so exposed, only to see him turn, speechless, away from me! I have endured the scent and filth of a ward, from which my delicate, sensitive nature revolts in loathsome disgust, until I had had time to clean the whole ward with my own hands, before it could be a decent place for human beings to inhabit.
From this eighth ward I was not removed until I was discharged, two years and eight months from the day I was consigned to it. I did not set my foot upon the ground in the mean time, although, for the last part of my imprisonment there, Dr. McFarland exchanged some of the noisiest and most boisterous patients for a more quiet class.
I have been threatened with the screen-room, and this threat has been accompanied with the flourish of a butcher knife over my head, for simply passing a piece of johnny-cake through a crack under my door to a hungry patient, who was locked in her room to suffer starvation as her discipline for her insanity.
I have heard a fond and tender mother begging and pleading, for one whole night and part of a day, for one drink of cold water, but all in vain! simply because she had annoyed her attendant, by crying to see her darling babe and dear little ones at home. I finally persuaded the matron, Mrs. Waldo, to interpose, and give her a drink of water.
There was but one of all the employees at that Asylum whom the Dr. could influence to treat me, personally, like an insane person. This was Mrs. De La Hay. Besides threatening me with the screen-room, as I have stated, she threatened to jacket me for speaking at the table.
One day, after she had been treating her patients with great injustice and cruelty, I addressed Mrs. McKonkey, who sat next to me at the table, and in an undertone remarked, “I am thankful there is a recording angel present, noting what is going on in these wards;” when Mrs. De La Hay, overhearing my remark, exclaimed in a very angry tone, “Mrs. Packard, stop your voice! if, you speak another word at the table I shall put a straight jacket on you!”
Mrs. Lovel, one of the patients, replied, “Mrs. De La Hay, did you ever have a straight jacket on yourself?”
“No, my position protects me! but I would as soon put one on Mrs. Packard as any other patient, ‘recording angel’ or no ‘recording angel,’ and Dr. McFarland will protect me in doing so, too!”
The indignant feeling of the house soon became so demonstrative, in view of the treatment I was receiving, that the Dr. seemed compelled to discharge Mrs. De La Hay to defend his own character from the charge of abusing me, and Mrs. De La Hay soon after became insane, and a tenant of Jacksonville poor-house.
He cut me off from all written communication with the outside world, except under the strictest censorship, and made it a dischargeable offence of his employees to permit me to have any means of communication with the outside world. He has refused Mrs. Judge Thomas and other friends, whom he knew desired to comfort me with human sympathy and some choice viands, admission into my presence, and has put them off with the inquiry, “why do you wish to single out Mrs. Packard from the other patients, to administer to her comfort?” and when asked by his guests, who often mistook me for the matron, “why he kept so intelligent a lady in an Insane Asylum?” he would reply, “you must not take any notice of what a patient says!” And the reply he would make to my indignant friends at the hospital, who ventured sometimes to inquire “why are you treating Mrs. Packard in this manner?” has invariably been, “it is all for her good!”
Time will not allow me to detail my sufferings and persecutions at that hospital; I will only add, may the Lord forgive Dr. McFarland for the injustice I have suffered at his hands! And God grant that the legislature of 1867 may have the moral courage to effectually remove the liabilities to a repetition of wrongs like my own!
Various attempts were made by my Manteno friends to rescue me, but all in vain. My legal non-existence rendered it difficult to extend legal aid to a nonentity, except it come through the identity of my only legal protector, and so long as it was possible to cut me off from any direct application for deliverance, he could ward off the habeas corpus investigation they wished to institute, and as long as the Doctor claimed I was insane, so long this unjust law consigned me to legal imprisonment. My relatives and other friends applied to lawyers, judges and the Governor in my behalf, but all in vain, as these officers were only authorized to administer existing laws; they could neither repeal them nor act contrary to them. On the 18th of June, 1863, I was finally removed from my asylum prison, by order of the Trustees, as the result of a personal interview which Dr. McFarland kindly consented to grant me, and put again into the custody of my husband, who consigned me to a prison in my own house, claiming, as his excuse, that I was just as insane as when I was entered just three years previously, for I had neither recanted nor yielded my right to my identity: therefore, in the judgment of your superintendent, I am hopelessly insane, and am doomed, by his certificates, to a life-long imprisonment in the Insane Asylum at Northampton, Mass., and my husband was just on the point of starting with me for a consignment in that living tomb, when he was arrested by a writ of habeas corpus, issued by judge Starr, of Kankakee City, and used by my Manteno friends in defence of my personal liberty. I was now where I could make direct application, by passing a letter clandestinely through a crack in my window.
The trial lasted five days, and resulted in a complete vindication of my sanity, although his witnesses swore that it was evidence of insanity for a person to wish to leave a Presbyterian church and join a Methodist! A full account of this trial is found in this “Three Years Imprisonment for Religious Belief.” It was reported by one of my lawyers, and is an impartial record of the whole case.
During the trial, Mr. Packard “fled his country” in the night, to avoid the danger of a mob retribution. He took with him all our personal property, even my own wardrobe and children, and rented our home, so that I found myself, at the close of court, homeless, penniless and childless.
And this, gentlemen, is legal usurpation, also, on the slavish principle of common law — the legal nonentity of the wife, the man and wife being one, and the one, the man! Gentlemen, we married women need emancipation; and will you not be the pioneer State in our Union, in woman’s emancipation? and thus use my martyrdom for the identity of a married woman, to herald this most glorious of all reforms — married woman’s legal emancipation, from that of a slave in law, to that of a partner and companion of her husband, in law, as she now is in society?
And, lest there be a misunderstanding on this subject, permit me here to explain what kind of slavery I refer to. This slavish position which the principles of common law assigns the married woman, is a relic of barbarism, which the progress of civilization will, doubtless, ere long, annihilate. In the dark ages, married woman was a slave to her husband, both socially and legally, but, as civilization has progressed, she has outgrown her social position — that of a slave — and is now regarded in society as the companion and partner of her husband. But the law has not progressed with civilization, so that married woman is still a slave, legally, while she is his companion, socially.
Man, we know, is woman’s natural protector, and, in most instances, is all the protection a married woman needs. Still, as the laws are made for the exceptional cases, where man is not a law unto himself, what can be the harm in emancipating woman from this slavish position, so that she can receive governmental protection of her right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” as well as the marital protection? So, in case where the marital fails, she can have legal protection, while married as well as when single. Then when your darling daughter is called to exchange the paternal protection for the marital, she will not be obliged to alienate her right to governmental protection by this exchange of her natural protectors, but she, the tenderest and the best, can then claim of her government, while a married woman, the same protection of her rights as a woman, which your sons now claim as men.
The need of this radical change in married woman’s legal position, is more fully elucidated in this book, which contains a detailed account of my persecutions in Illinois, when your State hospital was used, in my case, as inquisition. My object in bringing these facts to your notice is to secure legislative action, where these facts show the need of action.
In conclusion, gentlemen of this Assembly, may I be allowed to read a few extracts from Dr. McFarland’s published letters on this subject, showing, from his own words, his ground of self-defense.
The Doctor says: “All Mrs. Packard’s wrongs, persecutions and sufferings, of every description, are utterly the creation of a diseased imagination.”
Now, I ask, is this so? Can facts be transmuted into fiction by the simple assertion of one man? And is it a mere creation of a diseased imagination that has torn me from my helpless babe and deprived my darling children of a fond mother’s tender care? Is it the mere creation of a diseased imagination to find that good conduct, not even the best, is any guarantee of protection to a wife and mother under Illinois laws?
Neither Dr. McFarland nor Mr. Packard himself, has ever denied one of the facts in the statement I have made; but as their only justification, they claim that I am insane — and the only proof of insanity they have ever brought in support of this opinion is, “her views of things,” as the Doctor expresses himself, or, my private, individual opinions.
Now I wish to ask the gentlemen of this Assembly, if, for my using my right of opinion, or my right of private judgment, the public sentiment of this age is going to justify Illinois in keeping me a prisoner three years, under the subterfuge of insanity, based wholly upon my “views of things?”
Just consider, for one moment, the principle. Here my personal liberty, for life, hangs suspended wholly on the opinion of this one man, whom policy or interest might tempt to say I was insane when I was not; for this law expressly states that the class I represent may be imprisoned without evidence of insanity, and without trial!
Just make the case your own, gentlemen: would it be easy for you to realize that it was a mere creation of your imagination to have two men take you by force from your business and family, without evidence of insanity and without trial, and your kidnappers claim as their only justification, that you are insane on some point in your religious belief, simply because Dr. McFarland says you are, and then lock you up for life, on his single testimony, without proof?
Now we, married women and infants, have had our personal liberty, for sixteen years, suspended on this one man’s opinion; and possibly he may be found to be a fallible man, and capable of corruption, if we may be allowed to judge of this great man from the standpoint of his own words and actions.
Now, if the Doctor was required to prove his patients insane, from their own conduct, there would be a shadow of justice attached to his individual judgment; but while this law allows him to call them insane, and treat them as insane, without evidence of insanity, where is the justice of such a decision?
You do not hang a person without proof from the accused’s own actions that he is guilty of the charge which forfeits his life. So the personal liberty of married women should not be sacrificed without proof that they are insane, from their own conduct.
When Dr. McFarland has brought forward one proof from my own conduct, by one insane act of my own, in support of his position, I will then say he has cause for calling me an insane person; but until that time arrives, I claim he is begging the question entirely, in calling me an insane person, without one evidence to sustain his charge.
Gentlemen, it is not merely for my own self-defence from this unpleasant charge, that I lay this argument before you, but it is that you may see, from my standpoint, how exceedingly frail is the thread on which our reputation for sanity is suspended, and how very liable married women and infants are to be thus falsely imprisoned in Jacksonville Insane Asylum.
If my testimony might be allowed to add weight to this suspicion or presumption, I would state that, to my certain knowledge, there were married women there when I left, more than three years since, who were not insane then at all, and they are still retained there, as hopelessly insane patients, on the simple strength of the above ground of evidence; and it is my womanly sympathy for this class of prisoners that has moved me to come, alone, from Massachusetts, in the depth of winter, to see if I could not possibly induce this legislature to compassionate their case: for it is under your laws, gentlemen, I have suffered, and they are still suffering, and it is to this legislature of 1867 that we apply for a legal remedy; and we confidently trust you will vindicate the honor of your State in the action you take upon this subject. We trust you will not only have the manliness and moral courage to repeal this unjust law, forthwith, but also extend, promptly, a just trial to its wronged and injured victims.
Again, Dr. McFarland writes: “Mr. Packard is suffering from a cause which only gather his church and the public about him, in the bonds of a generous sympathy.”
I reply to this assertion by stating a few simple facts. Mr. Packard’s church and people in Manteno, Illinois, withdrew from him their confidence and support, while I was incarcerated, instead of gathering about him, because public sentiment would not tolerate him, as a minister, with this stigma upon him; and it was the fear of lynch law which drove him from this State during the court, to seek shelter and employment in Massachusetts, his native State. There he succeeded in securing a place as stated supply, by ignoring the decision of your court, and by misrepresenting the west to be in such a semi-barbarous state that it was impossible to get a just decision at any legal tribunal in this uncivilized region, where, he tells them, “a large portion of community were more intent on giving Presbyterianism a blow, than in investigating the question of Mrs. Packard’s insanity!”
He occupied his new field in Sunderland, Mass., fifteen months, when I returned to my father’s house in Sunderland, on a visit, and the result was, my personal presence, together with the facts in the case, upset him, so that neither Sunderland nor any other society in New England can be induced to employ him in defiance of enlightened public sentiment. Indeed, the public sentiment of New England has so blighted and withered his ministerial influence, that the remark of a lawyer in Worcester, Mass., made a few months since, reflects his true social position there, at present. Said he, “there is not a man in New England, neither do I think there is one man in the United States, who would dare to stand the open defender of Mr. Packard in the course he has taken, and in view of the facts as they are now known to exist.”
Now I would like to ask Dr. McFarland, where are to be found these “bonds of generous sympathy” to which he refers? in the region of the west, or in the east?
Here, where the Doctor’s assertion is found to be plainly contradicted by facts, can his simple assertions be relied upon as infallible testimony and infallible authority?
Again, another extract, and I am done.
Dr. McFarland writes, “I have no question but that Mrs. Packard’s committal here was as justifiable as in the majority of those now here.”
Now if this statement of your superintendent is true, viz.: that I am a fair specimen of the majority of his patients, then the Doctor himself must admit that the majority of inmates there are capable of assuming a self-reliant position, and, instead of being supported there as State paupers, as I was during my imprisonment of three years, ought they not to be liberated, and supporting themselves and their families as I am now doing?
Mr. Packard has become an object of charity since he cast me penniless upon the world, while I have, without charity, not only supported myself, but have already become voluntarily responsible for his support, and the support and education of my children, from the avails of my own hard labor, since my discharge from my prison; while at the same time, he will not allow me to live in the house with my dear children, lest my heresies contaminate them!
Now, Gentlemen, is it not better that I be thus employed, selling my books for their support, rather than be held as your State’s prisoner and State’s pauper simply because my “views of things” do not happen to coincide with your Superintendent’s views of things?
It is true, and, gentlemen, your Superintendent’s own statement verifies it, that I am not the only one who has been so unjustly imprisoned there, and in the name and behalf of those now there, I beg of this body that you extend to such a fair trial or a discharge. Really, the claims of humanity and the honor of your State both demand that my case stimulate the Illinois legislature of 1867 to provide legal safeguards against false commitments like my own.
Permit me here to add, that although I have come from Massachusetts to Illinois at my own expense, without money and without price, for the express purpose of bringing these claims of oppressed humanity to your notice, I do not demand nor ask for any remuneration for my false imprisonment in your State institution, nor for any personal redress of those legal wrongs which have deprived me of my reputation, my home, my property, my children, my liberty; but I do ask that the legal liabilities to such like outrages may be effectually removed by this legislature, and that the justice of a trial by jury may be forthwith extended to those now in that asylum, who have been consigned to an indefinite term of imprisonment, without any trial.
Gentlemen of this assembly, in view of the facts now before you, please allow me the additional privilege of adding a few suggestions. You see it has become a demonstrated fact that I, a minister’s wife, of Illinois, have been three years imprisoned in your State, by your laws, simply because I could not tell a lie — that is, I could not be false to my own honest convictions; and since I simply claim the right to be an individual instead of a parasite, or an echo of others’ views, I am branded by your laws as hopelessly insane!
Is it not time for you to legislate on this subject, by enacting laws which shall make it a crime to treat an Illinois citizen as an insane person simply for the utterance of opinions, no matter how absurd those opinions may be to others? Opinions cannot harm the truth, nor the individual, especially if they are absurd or insane opinions.
But for irregularities of conduct, such as my persecutors have been guilty of, the law ought to be made to investigate. Imprisonment for religious belief! What is it but treason against the vital principle of this American Government, viz.: religions toleration?
Would that I could have claimed protection under the banner of my country’s flag, while a citizen of Illinois. But no; this unjust statute law has consigned me to the reign of despotism. And so are all my married sisters in Illinois liable to this consignment, so long as this barbarous law is in force.
And O! the horrors of such a consignment! Only think of putting your own delicate, sensitive daughter through the scenes I have been put through. Do you think she would have come out unharmed? God only knows. But this I do know: that it is one principle of ethics, that a person is very apt to become what they are taken to be. You may take the sanest person in the world, and tell them they are insane, and treat them as your Superintendent treats them there — it is the most trying ordeal a person can pass through and not really become insane.
And most reverently does Mrs. Packard attribute it to God’s grace alone, for carrying her safely through this most awful ordeal, unharmed, and — I am almost tempted to add — God himself could not have done this thing without the strictest conformity on my part, to His own laws of nature, in connection with a well-balanced organization. As it is, to God’s grace alone. I say it, I am a monument for the age — a standing miracle, almost, of the power of faith to shield one from insanity, by having come out unharmed, through a series of trials, such as would crush into a level with the beasts, I may say, any one, who did not freely use this antidote.
Here let me make one practical suggestion. Is that kind of treatment which causes insanity the best adapted to cure insanity?
O, my brothers! my gallant brothers! will you not protect us from such liabilities? Will you not have the manliness to grant to us, married women, the legal right to stand just where our own actions will place us, regardless of our views of things, or our private opinions? that is, may we not have the privilege of being legally protected, as you are, in our rights of opinion and conscience, so long as our good conduct deserves such protection?
We have an individuality of our own, which is sacred to ourselves; will you not protect our personal liberty, while in the lawful, lady-like exercise of it? for personal liberty is a boon of inestimable value to ourselves as well as you, and by guarding our liberty against false commitment there, you may have fortified the personal liberty of some of Illinois’ best and sanest class of citizens, whose interests are now vitally imperiled by this unjust law.
Yes, gentlemen, I, their representative, now stand legally exposed to be kidnapped again, and hid for life in some lunatic Asylum; and since no laws defend me, this may yet be done. Should public sentiment — the only law of self-defence I have — endorse the statements of this terrible conspiracy against the personal liberty and stainless character of an innocent woman, I may yet again be entombed, to die a martyr for the Christian principle of the identity of a married woman. Three long years of false imprisonment does not satisfy this lust for power to oppress the helpless. No; nothing but a life-long entombment can satisfy the selfhood of my only legal protector.
O! I do want laws to protect me, and, as an American citizen, I not only ask, but I demand that my personal liberty shall depend upon the decision of a jury — not upon the verdict of public sentiment, or forged certificates, either.
My gallant brothers, be true to my cause, if false to me. Be true to woman! defend her as your weak, confiding sister, and Heaven shall reward you; for God is on her side, “and he always wins who sides with God.”
Fear not; fear nothing so much as the sin of simply not doing your duty. Maintain your death grapple in defence of the heaven-born principles of liberty and justice to all human kind, especially to woman. Emancipate her! for above this cross hangs suspended a crown, of which even our martyred Lincoln’s crown of negro emancipation is but a mere type and shadow in brilliancy. And God grant that this immortal crown of unfading honor may be the rightful heritage — the well-earned reward of Illinois’ gallant sons, as embodied in their legislators.
And all we have to ask for Dr. McFarland is, that you not only allow, but require this great man to stand just where his own actions will place him, regardless of his position, or the opinion of his enemies or his friends.
Gentlemen, permit me also to say, that when you have once liberated the sane inmates of that hospital and effectually fortified the rights of the sane citizens of Illinois against false commitments there, you will have taken the first progressive step in the right direction, in relation to this great humanitarian reform. And here I will say, that from what I do know of the practical workings of the internal machinery of that institution, as seen from behind the curtain, from the standpoint of a patient, and from what I know of the personal and private character of Illinois Statesmen, I predict it will not be the last.
And, notwithstanding the temporary disfigurement of Illinois’ proud escutcheon by this foul stain of religious persecution, which, I regret to say, it now has upon it, may God grant that the present statesmen of Illinois may yet so fully vindicate its honor, as that the van of this great humanitarian reform may yet be heralded to the world in the action of Illinois representatives, as embodied in this legislature of 1867.
I hold myself in readiness, gentlemen, to answer any questions, or perform any service in behalf of this cause you may desire of me; and, as an incentive to your acting efficiently in this matter, I will state that several legislatures in New England are watching eagerly the result of my application to you, this winter, and they have engaged me to report to them the result.
I desire, therefore, an opportunity to vindicate your character before these legislatures, on the basis of your own actions, for, after you know of the existence of this barbarous law, and its direct application to me, one of its wronged and injured victims, as you now do, I shall no longer be able to plead your ignorance of the existence of such a law, as your vindication from the charge of barbarism, and you must know that the intelligence of the whole civilized world cannot but call a State barbarous in its legislation, so long as this black and cruel law has an existence, even in continuing to hold its victims in its despotic grasp.
I know, gentlemen, that since 1865, I can plead that you have nominally repealed it, but so long as this law of ’65 is without a penalty to enforce it, it is only a half law, or in other words, it is merely legislative advice — it is not a statute law, and so long as you do retain its injured victims in their false imprisonment, you have not repealed it.
Now, gentlemen, much as I would like to gratify the wishes of a member of your House, in erasing the record of this law from my book, on the ground of its having been already repealed, I cannot conscientiously do it so long as that institution continues to receive inmates without any trial by jury, or retains those who have never had any such trial.
No, gentlemen; this law and its application to me, cannot be obliterated, for it has already become a page of Illinois’ history, which must stand to all coming time, as a living witness against the legislation of Illinois in the nineteenth century. There is one way, and only one, by which you can redeem your State from this foul blot of religious persecution which now desecrates your nationality in the estimation of the whole civilized world, and that is by such practical repentance as this bill demands. This done, I can then, and only till then, vindicate the character of Illinois statesmen, on the ground of their own honorable acts.
Should you, for any reason, choose to turn a deaf ear to this appeal in defense of your injured citizens, I shall not rest until I have made this same appeal to the people of this State, and asked from them the justice I am denied from their representatives. And should I be denied there, I shall go to work single-handed and alone, in liberating this oppressed class, by the habeas corpus act, before I shall feel that my skirts are washed from the guilt of hiding these public sins against humanity, which I know to have existence in the State of Illinois.
And can you blame me for this manifestation of my heart sympathy for my imprisoned sisters? Can a sensitive woman feel a less degree of sympathy for her own sex, when she knows, as I do from my own bitter experience, the injustice they are daily and hourly now receiving in that dismal prison?
And O! if you or your darling daughter were in their places, would you feel like reproaching me as a fanatic, for thus volunteering in your defence? No; you would not. But I should reproach myself, and so must a just God reproach me, should I dare to do less; for there is a vow recorded in the archives of high Heaven, that Mrs. Packard will do all in her power to do, for the deliverance of these victims of injustice, if God will but grant her deliverance. I am delivered! my vow stands recorded there! Shall this vow be a witness against me, or shall it not?
Gentlemen of this Assembly, I shall try to redeem that pledge, and so far as you are concerned, my work is now done. Yours remains to be done. God grant you may dare to do right! that you may have the moral courage to dare to settle this great question, just upon its own intrinsic merits, independent of the sanity or the insanity of its defender.
Very respectfully submitted to the General Assembly of Illinois, now in Session, by —
Mrs. E. P. W. Packard
[The result of this appeal was the passage of the “Personal Liberty Bill,” entitled “An Act for the Protection of Personal Liberty.”]
Source: Marital Power Exemplified in Mrs. Packard’s Trial, and Self-Defence from the Charge of Insanity; or, Three Years’ Imprisonment for Religious Belief, by the Arbitrary will of a Husband, with A Appeal to the Government to so Change the Laws as to Afford Legal Protection to Married Women, by Elizabeth Parsons Ware Packard (Chicago: Clarke & Co., Publisher) 1870, Appendix. Pp. 1-16.