Howard determined to insist on the wisdom and necessity of the foreign plan; but as he always made his reports from experience and not from hearsay, he felt that the time had come when he should first visit the lazarettos, and then go through the forty days' quarantine himself.
The site of the Hospital, on the south-east side of Valetta, has been condemned by science as unhealthy, and it is very easy with modern knowledge to find many faults in its organisation. Howard, in his "Lazarettos in Europe," in 1786, gave a vivid description of its condition and exposed its defects.
Now his object in thus exposing himself to infection and disease was not that he might gratify some crotchet, or get a name with the world, but that from personal experience of the unutterable miseries of such places as these lazarettos were, he might be better able to suggest the needful improvements and remedies.
This experiment was more dangerous than any he had yet tried, so instead of taking a servant with him, as had generally been his habit, he set out alone in November 1785. As regards lazarettos, he found, as he had found with regard to prisons and hospitals, that their condition depended in a great degree on the amount of care taken by the ruler of the city.
He wished to alleviate the sufferings of his fellow-creatures to a still greater extent; so he formed the plan of visiting the hospitals and lazarettos set apart for contagious diseases in various countries. Amongst other places he went to Smyrna and Constantinople when these cities were suffering from the plague.
In journey after journey he visited the gaols of Holland and Germany, till his longing to discover some means of checking the fatal progress of the Plague led him to examine the lazarettos of Europe and the East. He was still engaged in this work of charity when he was seized by a malignant fever at Cherson in Southern Russia, and "laid quietly in the earth," as he desired.
Their endeavours were, however, not crowned with complete success; on which account their powers were increased, in the year 1504, by granting them the right of life and death over those who violated the regulations. The first lazarettos were established upon islands at some distance from the city, seemingly as early as the year 1485.
According to your doctrine, America ought to buy up and import all the deformed unfortunates who are annually exposed in China, in order that our people should properly appreciate the superiority of sound limbs, and the value of the five senses; and healthy young people should throng the lazarettos and alms-houses to learn the nature of their own disadvantages.
He observes that the Spanish Creoles were living in such poverty that mass was said before daylight, so that mutual scandal at dilapidated toilets might not interfere with the enjoyment of religion. The leprosy was common, and two lazarettos were filled with its victims. The negro blood had found its way into almost every family; a female slave received her freedom as a legacy of piety or of lust.
The methodical habit of the man's mind is evidenced by noting that he followed exactly the same method in this as in his former undertaking, namely, personal investigation and experience. He left home in July, 1789, and it is surprising that for six months he literally lived in the poisonous atmosphere of the pest-houses, pest-ships, and lazarettos of Europe, and escaped contagion.