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Crime And Its Correctives
by [?]

A marked illustration occurs to me. Many years ago in London a well-known and respectable gentleman was brutally garroted. It was during the “silly season”–between sessions of Parliament, when the newspapers are likely to be dull. They at once began to report cases of garroting. There appeared to be an “epidemic of garroting.” The public mind was terribly excited, and when Parliament met it hastened to pass the infamous “flogging act”–a distinct reversion to the senseless and discredited methods of physical torture, so alluring to the half instructed mind of the average journalist of today. Yet the statistics published by the Home Secretary under whose administration the act was passed show that neither at the time of the alarm was there any material increase of garroting, nor in the period of public tranquillity succeeding was there any appreciable diminution.


By advocating painless removal of incurable idiots and lunatics, incorrigible criminals and irreclaimable drunkards from this vale of tears Dr. W. Duncan McKim provoked many a respectable but otherwise blameless person to throw a catfit of great complexity and power. Yet Dr. McKim seemed only to anticipate the trend of public opinion and forecast its crystallization into law. It is rapidly becoming a question of not what we ought to do with these unfortunates, but what we shall be compelled to do. Study of the statistics of the matter shows that in all civilized countries mental and moral diseases are increasing, proportionately to population, at a rate which in the course of a few generations will make it impossible for the healthy to care for the afflicted. To do so will require the entire revenue which it is possible to raise by taxation–will absorb all the profits of all the industries and professions and make deeper and deeper inroads upon the capital from which they are derived. When it comes to that there can be but one result. High and humanizing sentiments are angel visitants, whom we entertain with pride and pleasure, but when fine entertainment becomes too costly to be borne we “speed the parting guest” forthwith. And it may happen that in inviting to his vacant place a less exciting successor–that in replacing Sentiment with Reason–we shall, in this instance, learn to our joy that we do but entertain another angel. For nothing is so heavenly as Reason; nothing is so sweet and compassionate as her voice–

“Not harsh and crabbed, as dull fools suppose,
But musical as is Apollo’s lute,”

Is it cruel, is it heartless, is it barbarous to use something of the same care in breeding men and women as in breeding horses and dogs? Here is a determining question: Knowing yourself doomed to hopeless idiocy, lunacy, crime or drunkenness, would you, or would you not, welcome a painless death? Let us assume that you would. Upon what ground, then, would you deny to another a boon that you would desire for yourself?


The good American is, as a rule, pretty hard upon roguery, but he atones for his austerity by an amiable toleration of rogues. His only requirement is that he must personally know the rogues. We all “denounce” thieves loudly enough, if we have not the honor of their acquaintance. If we have, why, that is different–unless they have the actual odor of the prison about them. We may know them guilty, but we meet them, shake hands with them, drink with them, and if they happen to be wealthy or otherwise great invite them to our houses, and deem it an honor to frequent theirs. We do not “approve their methods”–let that be understood; and thereby they are sufficiently punished. The notion that a knave cares a pin what is thought of his ways by one who is civil and friendly to himself appears to have been invented by a humorist. On the vaudeville stage of Mars it would probably have made his fortune. If warrants of arrest were out for every man in this country who is conscious of having repeatedly shaken hands with persons whom he knew to be knaves there would be no guiltless person to serve them.