The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 4
Lecture XII. Pauperism and Crime
Lecture XII. Pauperism and Crime.
Causes of pauperism continued—Indulgence in intoxicating liquors—Causes producing love of these;—Hereditary predisposition; Excessive labour with low diet; Ignorance—Effects of commercial convulsions in creating pauper-ism—Duty of supporting the poor—Evils resulting to society from neglect of this duty—Removal of the causes of pauperism should be aimed at—Legal assessments for the support of the poor advocated—Opposition to new opinions is no reason for despondency, provided they are sound—Treatment of criminals—Existing treatment and its failure to suppress crime—Light thrown by Phrenology on this subject—Three classes of combinations of the mental organs, favourable, unfavourable, and middling—Irresistible proclivity of some men to crime Proposed treatment of this class of criminals—Objection as to moral responsibility answered.
In the immediately preceding Lecture, I entered upon the consideration of the social duty of providing for the poor. The removal of the causes of pauperism, it was observed, should be aimed at, as well as the alleviation of the misery attending it. One great cause of pauperism mentioned was bodily and mental defect; and it was held that those thus afflicted should be maintained by society.
Another cause of pauperism, is the habit of indulging in intoxicating liquors. This practice undermines the health of the whole nervous system, through which it operates most injuriously on the mind. The intoxicating fluid, by its influence on the nerves of the stomach, stimulates the brain, and excites the organs of sensibility, emotion, and thought, for the time, into pleasing and vivacious action. Hence the drunkard enjoys a momentary happiness; but when the stimulus is withdrawn, the tone of the system sinks as far below the healthy state, as during intoxication it was raised above it. He then experiences an internal void, a painful prostration of strength and vivacity, and a strong craving for a renewed supply of alcohol to recruit his exhausted vigour. During intoxication, the brain, from over excitement, is incapable of healthy action, while in the intervals between different debauches, it is so exhausted and enfeebled, that it is equally unfit to execute its functions. The habitual drunkard thus sinks into the condition of an imbecile, and may become a burden on the industrious portion of the community for his maintenance.*
* * The phenomena attending the different stages of intoxication appear to indicate that the brain is affected also directly in the following manner, although evidence is still wanting to render this view certain: Intoxicating liquors accelerate the action of the heart, and cause an increased flow of blood to the head. The first effect of this is to stimulate all the organs into greater activity, and to produce feelings of vivacity and pleasure. The blood circulates most freely in the largest mental organs, because they have the largest bloodvessels. As intoxication proceeds, the smaller organs-those of the intellectual powers-are first overcharged with blood, and their functions become impaired; next, the organs of the moral sentiments are gorged; and lastly, those of the propensities; so that the drunkard extinguishes first his humanity, then his animal nature, and at last becomes a mere breathing unconscious [unclear: mess]
Various causes lead to these unfortunate habits. One is hereditary predisposition. If the parents, or one of them, have been habitually addicted to this vice, its consequences affect their physical constitution, and they transmit an abnormal condition of organization to their children. This doctrine has been ridiculed, as if we taught that children are born drunk. They are no more born drunk than they are born in a passion; but they are engendered with conditions of brain that tend ultimately to produce in them a love of intoxicating fluids.
Again, a tendency to drunkenness appears to be caused by excessive labour with low diet. The nervous energy is exhausted through the medium of the muscles, and the stimulus of alcohol is felt to be extremely grateful in restoring sensations of life, vigour, and enjoyment. This cause may be removed by moderating the extent of labour, and improving the quantity or the quality of the food. If alcohol were withheld, and a nourishing diet supplied to such men, they would, after a few weeks, be surprised at the pleasurable feelings which they would experience from this better means of supplying the waste of their systems.
An additional cause of intoxication is found in ignorance. When an individual enjoys high health and a tolerably well-developed brain, he feels a craving for enjoyment; a desire to be happy, and to be surrounded by happy friends. If he be uneducated and ignorant, his faculties want a scene in which they may vent their vivacity, and objects on which they may expend their energies; and he discovers that intoxicating liquors will give him a vivid experience, for the time, of the pleasures of which he is in quest. For the sake of this artificial stimulus, the bottle is then resorted to, instead of the natural excitements of the mind, calculated at once to render us happy, and to improve our external condition. This was the real source of the drunkenness which disgraced the aristocracy of Britain in the last generation. I am old enough to have seen the last dying disgraces of that age. The gentlemen were imperfectly educated, had few or no intellectual resources, and betook themselves to drinking as a last resource, for the sake of enjoying the pleasures of mental, vivacity. From an analogous cause, some legal and medical practitioners, who reside in the provinces, fall into these pernicious habits. Their limited sphere of duties does not afford a constant stimulus to their minds, and they apply to the bottle to eke out their enjoyments.
A more extensive and scientific education is the most valuable remedy for these evils. We have seen mental cultivation banish drunkenness from the classes holding rank and respectability in society, and the same effect may be expected to follow from the extension of education downwards.
The last cause of pauperism is a great convulsion which occurs every few years in our manufacturing and commercial systems, and which, by deranging trade, deprives many industrious individuals of employment, casts them on charity for subsistence, breaks down their self-respect and feelings of independence, and ultimately degrades them into helpless pauperism.
If, then, I am correct in the opinion, that the chief causes of pauperism are—-first, a low temperament, and imperfect development of brain, attended with a corresponding mental imbecility, although not so great as to amount to idiocy;—secondly, hereditary or acquired habits of intoxication, which impair the mind by lowering the tone of the whole nervous system;—thirdly, want of mental cultivation; and fourthly, depression arising from commercial disasters—the question, Whether the poor should be provided for by society, is easily solved. To leave them destitute would not remove any one of these causes, but increase them. To allow our unhappy brethren, who thus appear to be as frequently the victims of evil influences over which they have little or no control, as of their own misconduct, to perish, or to lingerout a miserable and vicious existence, would be not only a direct infringement of the dictates of Benevolence and Conscientiousness, but an outrage on Veneration (seeing that God has commanded us to assist and reclaim them): Moreover, it would tend also to the injury of our own interests.
The fact that the world is arranged by the Creator on the principle of dispensing happiness to the community in proportion to their obedience to the moral law, is here again beautifully exemplified. By neglecting the poor, the number of individuals possessing deficient brains and temperaments is increased; the number of drunkards is increased; and the number of the ignorant is increased; and as society carries these wretched beings habitually in its bosom; as they prowl about our houses, haunt our streets, and frequent our highways, and as we cannot get rid of them, it follows, that we must suffer in our property and in our feelings, until we do our duty towards them. Nay, we must suffer in our health also; for their wretchedness is often the parent of epidemic diseases, which do not confine their ravages to them, but sweep away indiscriminately the good and the selfish, the indolent and the hard-hearted, who have allowed the exciting causes to grow up into magnitude beside them.*
* I have already adverted, on p. 64, to the destitute condition of the poor, and its tendency to cause the increase of pauperism. Professor Alison, in his pamphlet" On the Management of the Poor in Scotland," has shewn that another of the consequences of their extreme want, is the prevalence of epidemic fevers among them in the large towns. This affliction is no longer confined to themselves. In 1839, the Fever Board and the Directors of the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh reported, that, "notwithstanding every exertion, fever has kept its ground in this city; and that on three different occasions within these twenty years, it has assumed the form of an appalling epidemic:—that its ravages have extended, while its malignity has greatly increased—the mortality having risen from one in twenty to near one in six; and it has passed from the dwellings of the poor to those of the rich, and prevailed extensively among families in easy and affluent circunstances;—that, within the last two years, it must have affected at least ten thousand of the population of the city." In 1888, one in thirty were affected. Here we see the rich falling victims to disease originating in their own neglect of the poor. A more striking illustration of the mode of operation of the natural laws, and of the certainty of the punishment which is inflicted for infringing them, could not have been presented.
Holding it, then, to be clearly both the duty and the interest of society to provide for the poor, the next question is, How should this be done: by legal assessment or by voluntary contributions? Phrenology enables us to answer this question also. The willingness of any individual to bestow charity, depends not exclusively on the quantity of wealth which he possesses, but likewise on the strength of the benevolent principles in relation to the selfish in his mind. Now, we discover by observation, that the organs of the benevolent and selfish feelings differ very widely in relative size in different individuals; and experience supports the conclusion which we draw from this fact;—that their dispositions to act charitably are as widely different. Not only so, but, as the leading principle of our present social system is the pursuit of self-interest, it may be stated as a general rule (allowance being always made for individual exceptions), that those in whom the selfish feelings, with intellect and prudence, predominate, will possess most wealth; and yet this very combination of faculties will render them least willing to bestow. Their wealth and benevolence will generally be in the inverse ratio of each other. This inference, unfortunately, is also supported by facts. It has frequently been remarked that the humbler classes of society, and also the poorer members of these classes, bestow more charity, in proportion to their incomes, than the very wealthy. To trust to voluntary contributions, therefore, would be to exempt thousands who are most able, but least willing, to bear the burden, and to double it on those who are most willing, but least able, to support it.*
The correctness of this observation is supported by the fallowing extract from a Report by the Committee of Contributors to the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, presented to the general meeting held on 6th January 1845. "This state of matters has induced us to look with anxiety to the revenue, and more especially to that part of the fluctuating branch arising from the subscription contributions and church collections; and when we consider that the population of Edinburgh is 133,000, and the inhabited houses 22,500, and that the population of Leith'is 26,000, and the inhabited houses 4600—making (exclusive of Portobello, Musselburgh, &c.) a total population of about 160,000, and 27,000 inhabited houses, it is surprising, and much to be lamented, that the subscription contributors above 5s. are under 1800 and that the contributions are under L.3000.
When it is recollected that the object of the Institution is to provide a comfortable abode—the best medical skill—the purest medicines—and the most experienced nurses—to relieve the bodily sufferings of the poorer classes of society; and when we consider the deep interest which those in more fortunate circumstances have that the progress of disease should be arrested (independent of higher considerations), we cannot resist the conclusion that there must either be some misapprehension as to the Institution, or a callousness to charity which we are unwilling to impute."
I select these examples of local charity, because I believe them to be applicable to many cities besides Edinburgh, and they lead to the conclusion that while the present principles of social action prevail, compulsory assessment is indispensable; and I am inclined to carry it the length of assessing for the maintenance of the poor in all their forms. There are voluntary societies for supporting the destitute sick, a House of Refuge, the Deaf and Dumb Institution, the Blind Asylum, and the Royal Infirmary. I have been told that these, and all the other charitable institutions of Edinburgh, are sustained by about fifteen hundred benevolent individuals, many of whom subscribe to them all, and most of whom subscribe to several, while the remaining twenty or thirty thousand of the adult population of the city and suburbs, who are able to bear a part of the burden, never contribute a farthing to any one of these objects. In a sound social system this should not be the case. It is a social duty incumbent on us all to alleviate the calamities of our unfortunate, and even of our guilty brethren; and until our moral principles shall be so quickened as to induce us all to discharge this duty voluntarily, we should be compelled to do so by law.
On another point I am disposed to carry our social duties farther than is generally done. I regard the money applied to the maintenance of the indigent as, at present, to a great extent wasted, in consequence of no efficient measures being adopted by society, to check pauperism at its roots. If I am correct in ascribing it to a low temperament, imperfect development of brain, habits of intoxication, ignorance, and commercial fluctuations, efficient means must be used to remove these causes, before it can either cease, or be effectually diminished; and as the removal of them would, in the end, be the best policy, for both the public and the poor, I am humbly of opinion that the community, if they were alive to their own interests, as well as to their duty, would supply the pecuniary means for laying the axe to the root of the tree, and, by a rational education, and elevation of the physical and mental condition of the lower classes of society, would bring pauperism to a close, or, at all events, diminish its present gigantic and increasing dimensions.* Here the regret always occurs, that our senseless wars should have wasted so much capital that we must provide twenty-seven millions of pounds sterling annually to pay the inteest of it; a sum which, but for these wars, might have been applied to the moral advancement of society, and have carried a thousand blessings in its train. If our moral sentiments were once rendered as active as our propensities have been, and I fear still are, we should devote our public assessments to beneficial social objects, render them liberal in proportion to the magnitude of the work to be accomplished, and pay them with a hearty good-will, because they would all return to ourselves in social blessings.
* * Professor Alison has arrived at the same conclusions by means of practical observation. He says, "In following out this inquiry (into the condition of the poor; I have long since formed, and do not scruple to express, an opinion, which I cannot expect to be in the first instance, either well received or generally credited in this country, viz., that the higher ranks in Scotland do much less (and what they do, less systematically, and therefore less effectually) for the relief of poverty and of sufferings resulting from it, than those of any other country in Europe which is really well regulated." And again, "many respectable citizens (of Edinburgh) never appear among the subscribers to any public charity, at the same time that they steadily withstand all solicitations for private alms, and thus reduce the practice of this Christian duty (charity) to the utmost possible simplicity."On the Management of the Poor in Scotland, pp. 11 and 23.
* It is gratifying to observe that the suggestion in the text has, to some extent, been recently carried into effect by the Poor-Law Commissioners of England. See their admirable report "on the Training of Pauper Children," 1841.
The question is frequently asked, How are these principles, even supposing them to be founded in nature, ever to be carried into execution, seeing that the opinions of society are strongly opposed to them. In answer, I appeal to the experience of the world. All new opinions are rejected, and their authors persecuted or ridiculed at first; but, in all instances in which they have been true, they have been ultimately adopted. Galileo was imprisoned for proclaiming the first principles of a scientific astronomy. Fifty years elapsed before his opinions made any perceptible progress; but now they are taught in schools and colleges, and the mariner guides his ship by them on the ocean. It was the same in regard to the circulation of the blood; and it will be the same in regard to the application of the new philosophy to the social improvement of man. The present generation will descend, contemning it, to their graves; but, if it be true, we are sowing in young minds seeds that will grow, flourish, and ripen into an abundant harvest of practical fruits in due season. A thousand years are with the Lord as one day, and with society a hundred years are as one day in the life of an individual. Let us sedulously sow the seed, therefore, trusting that, if sound and good, it will not perish by the way-side, but bring forth fruits of kindness, peace, and love, in the appointed season.*
I forbear suggesting any particular plan by which the objects now detailed may be accomplished; because no plan can become practical until the public mind be instructed in the principles, and convinced of the truth of the doctrines, which I am now teaching: and whenever they shall be so convinced, they will devise plans for themselves with infinitely greater facility and success than we can pretend to do, who live only in the dawn of the brighter day.
The next social duty to which I advert, relates to the treatment of criminals, or of those individuals who commit offences against the persons or property of the members of the community. The present practice is to leave every man to the freedom of his own will, until he shall have committed an offence; in other words, until he shall have seriously injured his neighbour; and then to employ, at the public expense, officers of justice to detect him, witnesses to prove his crime, a jury to convict him, judges to condemn him, jailors to imprison, or executioners to put him to death, according as the law shall have decreed. It will be observed, that in all this proceeding there is no inquiry into the causes which led to the crime, into the remedies for crime, or into the effects of the treatment on the offender, or on society; yet every one of these points should be clearly ascertained before we can judge correctly of our social duties in regard to the treatment of criminals.
As to the cause of crime, there is a strange inconsistency between our theological and legal standards on the proclivity of the human mind to evil. The articles of our church teach us that the human heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked; while, legally, every man is regarded as so completely a moral agent, that he can command his will and his actions; and hence, that, when a clear law which his intellect can comprehend, is laid down for his guidance, he is a just and proper subject for punishment, if he infringe it. The premises and the conclusion in this last view are consistent with each other, and if this were a correct description of human nature, there would be no gainsaying the propriety of the practice. We should still, however, find a difficulty in accounting for our want of success in putting an end to crime; for, if these principles of criminal legislation and punitive infliction be sound, it appears a strange anomaly that crime has everywhere, and in every age, abounded most where punishment, especially severe punishment, has been most extensively administered, and that it has abated in all countries where penal infliction has become mild and merciful. There is, however, an error in this view of human nature, which Phrenology enables us to detect.
It appears incredible, that, in a well-governed country like this, where detection and punishment are almost certain to follow crime, any man should infringe the law, if he were not urged by impulses which obtained the mastery, for the time, over con science and reason. We need not waste time, however, in speculating on this subject, but may come at once to facts.
As mentioned in a former lecture, the brain may be divided into three great regions; those of the Animal Propensities, Moral Sentiments, and Intellectual Faculties.
In some individuals, the organs of the propensities bear the ascendency, in point of size, over those of the moral and intellectual faculties. Such men feel the impulses of passion very strongly, and are internally urged by vigorous selfish desires, which vehemently crave for gratification; while, on the other hand, they possess only feeble glimpses of moral obligation, and a glimmering of intellectual perception. When beings thus constituted are placed in a dense society, in which every man is struggling to acquire property and to advance his own fortunes, they commence the same career; but they take the road that first presents itself to their own peculiar minds;—they are impatient to obtain gratification of their passions; they feel few restraints from conscience or religion, as to the mode of doing so; they are greatly deficient in intellectual capacity, in patience, perseverance, and acquired skill; and from all these causes, they rush to crime, as the directest method of enjoying pleasure.
The class of minds which forms the greatest contrast to this one, is that in which the moral and intellectual organs decidedly predominate over those of the animal propensities. Individuals thus constituted have naturally strong feelings of moral and religious obligation, and vigorous intellectual perceptions, while the solicitations of their animal passions are relatively moderate.
The third class is intermediate between these two. They have the organs of the propensities, of the moral sentiments, and of the intellectual faculties, nearly in a state of equilibrium. They have strong passions, but they have also strong powers of moral and religious emotion, and of intellectual perception.
Fortunately, the lowest class of minds is not numerous. The highest class appears to me to abound extensively; while the middle class is also numerous. The middle and the highest class are at least as twenty to one, in comparison with the lowest.
* The serious efforts now making by the Sanatory Commissioners to improve the health of large towns; by the prison boards to improve the treatment of criminals; by magistrates and public officers to provide houses of refuge and reclamation for young offenders; and by Captain Maconochie to induce the Government to improve convict management,? all afford the most satisfactory evidence of the progress of sound principles towards practical results within the last ten years. 1840.
In the case of persons possessing the lowest class of brains, we are presented with beings whose tendencies to crime are naturally very strong, and whose powers of moral guidance and restraint are very feeble. "We permit such individuals to move at large, in a state of society in which intoxicating liquors, calculated to excite and gratify their animal propensities, are abundant, and easily obtained, and in which property, the great means of procuring pleasure, is everywhere exposed to their appropriation; we proclaim the law, that if they invade this property, or if, in the ecstasies of their drunken excitement, they commit violence on each other, or on the other members of the community, they shall be imprisoned, banished, or hanged, according to the degree of their offence; and in that condition of things, we leave them to the free action of their own faculties and the influence of external circumstances.
It appears a self-evident proposition, that if such men are actuated by strong animal passions (a proposition which few will dispute), there must be an antagonist power, of some kind or other, to restrain and guide them, before they can be led to virtue or withheld from vice. Now, the well-constituted members of society, judging from their own minds, assume that these individuals possess moral feelings and intellectual capacities adequate to this object, if they choose to apply them. On the other hand, the conviction forced on me by observation, not only of the brain, but of the lives and histories of great and habitual criminals, is, that they do not enjoy these controlling powers in an adequate degree to enable them successfully to resist the temptations presented by their passions and external circumstances. In treating of the foundations of moral obligation, I mentioned that I had repeatedly gone to jails, and requested the jailers to write down the character and crimes of the most distinguished inmates of the prisons; that before seeing these descriptions, I had examined their heads and also noted in writing the dispositions and probable crimes which I inferred from the development of their brains, and that the two had coincided. This could not have happened unless, in such cases, the brain had a real influence in determining the actions of the individuals. Especially, wherever the moral and the intellectual organs were very deficient, and the organs of the propensities were large, I found the whole life to have been devoted to crime and to nothing else. I saw a criminal of this description, who had been sent to the lunatic asylum in Dublin, in consequence of the belief that a life of such undeviating wickedness as he had led, could result only from insanity; for he had repeatedly undergone every species of punishment, civil and military, short of death, and had also been sentenced to death—all without effect. Yet the physician assured me that he was not insane, in the usual acceptation of the term; that all his mental organs and perceptions, so far as he possessed them, were sound, but that he had scarcely any natural capacity of feeling or comprehending the dictates of moral obligation, while he was subject to the most energetic action of the animal propensities, whenever an external cause of excitement presented itself. In him the brain, in the region of the propensities, was enormously large, and very deficient in the region of the moral sentiments. The physician, Dr Crawford, remarked, that he considered him most properly treated when he was handed over to the lunatic asylum, because, although his brain was not diseased, the extreme deficiency in the moral organs rendered him morally blind, just as the want of eyes would render a man incapable of seeing.
In October 1835, I saw another example of the same kind in the jail of Newcastle, in the person of an old man of 73, who was then under sentence of transportation for theft, and whose whole life had been spent in crime. He had been twice transported, and at the age of 73 was still in the hands of justice, to suffer for his offences against the law.* These are facts, and being facts, it is God who has ordained them. Phrenologists are no more answerable for them, or their consequences, than the anatomist is answerable for blindness, when he demonstrates that the cause of that malady is a defect in the structure of the eye. Blame appears to me to lie with those persons who, under an infatuation of prejudice, refuse to examine into these most important facts when they are offered to their consideration, and who resolutely decline to give effect to them in the treatment of criminals.
The question now presents itself, What mode of treatment does this view of the natural dispositions of criminals suggest? Every one is capable of understanding that if the optic nerve be too feeble to allow of perfect vision, or the auditory nerve too small to permit complete hearing, the persons thus afflicted should not be placed in situations in which perfect vision and hearing are necessary to enable them to avoid doing evil; nay, it will also be granted without much difficulty, that deficiency in the organ of Tune may be the cause why some individuals have no perception of melody; and it will be admitted, that, on this account, it would be cruel to prescribe to them the task of learning to play even a simple air, under pain of being severely punished if they failed. But most people immediately demur when we assure them that some human beings exist, who, in consequence of deficiency in the moral organs, are as blind to the dictates of benevolence and justice, as the others are deaf to melody; and that it is equally cruel to prescribe to them, as the law does, the practice of moral duties, and then to punish them severely because they fail. Yet the conclusion that this treatment is cruel is inevitable, if the premises be sound.
* In October 1839, I visited the state prison of Connecticut, at Weatliersfield, near Hartford, in presence of the Rev. Mr Gallaudet, Principal Totten, and other gentlemen, and saw a man in whose head the moral organs were very deficient, and the animal organs large. Mr Pilsbury, the superintendent of the prison, stated that this man had passed thirty years of his life in the state prison, under four several sentences, and that he had no doubt, that, if then liberated, he would, in a week, be again engaged in crime. See note, p. 42.
This mode of treatment would render their lives happier than they could ever be were their persons left at large in society; and it would make them also useful. I consider the restoration of this class of persons to the possession of a moral self-control as nearly hopeless: they resemble those who are blind and deaf from irremediable defects in the organs of sight and hearing. If, however, by long restraint and moral training and instruction, they should ever become capable of self-guidance, they should be viewed as patients who have recovered, and be liberated, on the understanding that if they should relapse into immoral habits, they should be restored to their places in the asylum.*
It has been frequently urged that this doctrine abolishes responsibility; but I am at a loss to comprehend the exact import of this objection. As formerly mentioned, the distinction between right and wrong does not depend on the freedom of the human will, as many persons suppose, but on the constitution of our faculties. Every action is morally right which gratifies all our faculties, enlightened and acting harmoniously; and every action is wrong which outrages or offends them. Hence, if we see a furious madman or a mischievous idiot (whom no one supposes to be free agents), burning a house or murdering a child, we are compelled, by our whole moral faculties, to condemn such actions as wrong, and to arrest the perpetrator of them in his wild career. Now, the case of the class of offenders which we have been discussing, is precisely analogous. Like the madman, they are under the influence of uncontrollable passions, existing, in their case, in consequence of the natural predominance of certain organs in the brain, and in his, from ascendency of the passions produced by cerebral disease. Society absolves idiots and the insane from punishment, and we only plead that this class of unfortunate beings should be as extensive in the eye of the law as it is in nature; and that by erroneous legal definitions of insanity, and by legal fictions, the really insane should not be treated as criminals. The actions of the morally insane, whom we wish to include in it, are without hesitation condemned; and no one doubts that we should put a stop to their outrages, although we do not regard the individuals as guilty. The important question, therefore, is, By what means may society be most effectually protected against their injurious assaults on property and life? The disciples of the old school answer, that this may be best done by holding them responsible for their actions, and punishing them; but in doing so, they turn a deaf ear to the lessons of experience, which proclaim only the failure of this treatment in times past: They close their understandings against the examination of new facts, which promise to account for that failure; they assume, in opposition to both philosophy and experience, that these men can act rightly if they choose, and that they can choose so to act; and finally, in consequence of these prejudices, errors, and false assumptions, and without considerations for the real welfare either of society or of the offenders, they indulge their own animal resentment, by delivering over the victims of cerebral malformation or disease to jailors and executioners, to be punished for committing actions which their defective mental constitution rendered it impossible for them to avoid. There is no wonder that crime does not diminish under such a form of treatment.
The disciples of the new philosophy, on the other hand, answer the question by appealing to experience; by looking at facts; by consulting reason; by regarding the advantage at once of the criminal and of society: they say that physical and moral restraint are the only effectual remedies for this great evil; that these should be unhesitatingly applied—not vindictively, but in affection and humanity; and that then the offences of this class of criminals will be diminished in number.*
There remain two other classes of minds to be considered in relation to criminal legislation—those whose organs of propensity, moral sentiment, and intellect, are pretty equally balanced, and those in whom the moral and intellectual faculties predominate; but the consideration of these must be reserved till the next Lecture.
* I have conversed on the subject of the irreclaimable dispositions of this class of criminals, with intelligent and humane superintendents of prisons in Britain and the United States of America, and they have expressed a decided conviction that there are prisoners whom no punishment will recall to virtue, but who, when liberated, constantly recommence their career of crime.
* Since the first edition of this work was published, Mr M. B. Sampson has treated the whole subject referred to in the text in a masterly manner, in Letters on "Criminal Jurisprudence considered in relation to Mental Organization." They have been published in a cheap form, and I strongly recommend them to the attention of the reader.
The views presented in the text are now operating on the minds of the middle classes of society, although still opposed by the learned. Lawyers in general reject them, but juries give effect to them in their verdicts. I lately heard a bishop and a lawyer lamenting over the degeneracy of modern times, evinced by the impossibility of inducing juries to convict for death, where the plea of insanity was urged as a defence: 1846.