Illinois State Asylum and Hospital for the Insane

City: Jacksonville

County: Morgan

State: Illinois

Commonly known as the Illinois State Asylum at Jacksonville or the Jacksonville State Hospital, the Illinois State Asylum and Hospital for the Insane was an institution established to treat and care for the intellectually disabled in Illinois. Much of the impetus for the institution came from Dorothea L. Dix, who toured Illinois in 1846 and investigated conditions for the intellectually disabled in the state's jails and almshouses. Based on her findings, Dix urged the Illinois General Assembly to establish a hospital for the intellectually disabled. In March 1847, the General Assembly passed a bill creating Illinois State Asylum and Hospital for the Insane. In 1848, the Board of Trustees hired James M. Higgins as superintendent, and Higgins supervised the construction of the original hospital. In November 1851, the institution admitted its first patient. The institution admitted an additional 137 patients in 1851. Hospital officials admitted all individuals with demonstrable intellectual disabilities, but special preference was given to those in indigent circumstances. From its inception, the institution experienced difficulties. Conflict among the trustees led to the dismissal of Higgins in 1854, and the trustees hired Andrew C. McFarland as the new superintendent. McFarland remained superintendent of the institution until 1870. McFarland's tenure was fraught with public controversy, due in large measure to the involuntary admission and mistreatment of patients, but also in part to McFarland's caustic and domineering personality. In 1860, McFarland and the institution became nationally notorious when Elizabeth Packard was institutionalized against her will at the behest of her husband, a minister who disagreed with her religious and political viewpoints, including her anti-slavery convictions. Elizabeth Packard remained in the institution until 1863 and, after her release, wrote an exposé of her experience that brought the issue of involuntary commitment into the public spotlight. The resulting scandal led the Illinois General Assembly in 1867 to pass a law, popularly known as the Liberty Law or Packard Law, stipulating that a trial was required for someone to be legally declared intellectually disabled.

Mary Lynn McCree Bryan, Barbara Bair, and Maree de Angury, eds., The Selected Papers of Jane Addams (Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2009), 2:157, 158, n6; "An Act to Establish the Illinois State Hospital for the Insane," 1 March 1847, Laws of Illinois (1847), 52-55; Newton Bateman and Paul Selby, eds., Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of Morgan County, ed. by William F. Short (Chicago: Munsell, 1906), 2:734-35; "An Act for the Protection of Personal Liberty," 5 March 1867, Public Laws of Illinois (1867), 139-40.