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Crime: Its Cause and Treatment by Clarence Darrow

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He cannot meet these charges by proving the acts of kindness and charity
and real worth that are rarely absent in any life. The proceedings show
how bad he is, not how good. He may be able to call witnesses to show
that up to the time of the bringing of the indictment his reputation for
honesty was good; but he cannot show that he supported his grandmother,
or helped his aunt, or educated his younger brother, or gave his money
to the poor. All the good is irrelevant to the issue. This does not
prove that he did not commit the act. It might clearly prove whether on
the whole he should go to jail. Through this process he feels that the
law and proceedings are unfair and that he is condemned, when, in fact,
he is as good as those who judge him. Neither can he show the
circumstances that hedged in his way nor the equipment with which he
entered life. Under the legal theory that he is "the captain of his
soul," these are not material to the issue. Neither can he show the
direct motive that caused the conduct. It may have been a motive that
was ideal, but the question involved is, did he violate the law?

He is convicted and sent to prison. As a rule, he will some time be
turned back into the world. He needs careful treatment, involving
instruction and an appeal to that part of his nature which may awaken
sympathies and produce emotions that will make him more of a social
being on his return to the world. In the loose language of the world, it
is necessary for him not only to learn how to curb the evil but how to
increase the good. His imagination should be cultivated and enlarged.
The responses to better sentiment should be strengthened. This can be
furthered only by skilled teachers who are moved by the desire to help
him. The process should be similar to a hospital treatment. Instead of
this, he is usually surrounded by men of little intelligence or
education, men who have no fitness for the task; he is governed by
strict rules, all of them subjecting him to severe penalties when
violated. Every action in the prison reminds him of his status. With the
exception of a few strong men who need suffering for their development
it can have but one result. He must come out from prison poorer material
than when he went in. There are only two reflections that can keep him
out of trouble in the future: the remembrance of the past and the fear
that a similar experience might come to him again.

When it is remembered that the greatest enemy to happiness and life is
fear; when we realize that the constant battle of the primitive man was
with the fear that peoples the unknown with enemies and dangers; when we
remember that in some way, fear of poverty, of disease, of disaster, of
loss of friends and life is the ever-present enemy of us all, it is
evident that nothing but harm can come from the lessons of fear that are
drilled into the victim in prison. Life furnishes countless ways to be
kind and helpful and social. It furnishes infinite ways to be cruel,
hard and anti-social. Most of these anti-social ways are not condemned
by the law. Whether the life is helpful and kindly or hard and selfish
can never depend upon the response of an organism to fear, but upon the
response of an organism to the kindlier and more humane and sympathetic
sentiments that to some extent at least inhere in the constitution of

It is a common thing for prisoners, even during the longest term, to be
more solicitous about mother, child, wife, brother or friend than about
themselves. It is common for them to deny themselves privileges,
presents or favors to help other inmates. The consideration and kindness
shown by unfortunates to each other are surprising to those who have no
experience with this class of men. Often to find real sympathy you must
go to those who know what misery means. Pride and coldness are usually
due to lack of understanding, and life alone can bring understanding.
Every intelligent man engaged in efforts to improve and help either
criminals or children or any others, knows the need of an appeal to what
passes as the better nature. Help does not come so much from directly
inhibiting the bad as by extending the area of the higher emotions. To
pull up weeds in a garden without planting something in their place is a
foolish task. The human being is like the garden. Something must grow in
the soil. If weeds are pulled up and nothing planted Nature will grow
more weeds. Some feelings and emotions always possess every person. The
best that is incident to the machine should be found and this be
cultivated and extended until it dominates the man. Courts and prisons
have no machinery to cultivate the best in their victims; they are
always looking for the worst, aiding and promoting it until the prisoner
is driven to hopelessness and despair.



It is almost hopeless to bring any system or order out of the chaos that
prevails in the discussion of the insane, the defective, the moron, and
the feeble-minded. The world has so long believed that man is a
specially created animal and that he does wrong from free choice, that
much more time and investigation are necessary before sane and
scientific theories can be formulated on this subject.

It has been a great many years since any semi-intelligent man believed
that all sorts of physical abnormalities were due to one cause and could
be cured by one method, and yet the prevailing opinion now, even among
the fairly educated, is that all sorts of abnormal conduct are due to
one cause, perversity and wickedness, and should be treated with only
one prescription, punishment. Scientific men indeed have long known that
there were causes for the abnormality of conduct and that there were
various more or less satisfactory remedies for many cases. Still the
time that scientists have worked on the problem is short and the data
imperfect, and many years of patient study will be needed before there
can be worked out the broad theories of responsibility for and treatment
of crime which will replace the long accepted doctrines of original sin,
and the expulsion of devils from the wicked by cruelty and punishment.

By far the largest part of the population of prisons is made up of the
insane, feeble-minded, morons, defectives or victims of diseases that
seriously influence conduct. This is especially shown by the increased
percentage of the clearly defective that are repeaters, over those in
prison for their first offense. There is no lack of statistics as to the
various groups of defectives, but these figures cannot be reconciled. No
two authorities agree as to percentages; the classifications are more or
less uncertain; the dividing lines between the different groups are
vague, one class easily fading into another. The investigations have
largely been made by those not trained for the work, and above all the
conclusions as to treatment are at variance, doubtful and necessarily
not yet satisfactory. That the clearly insane and the plainly
feeble-minded should not be punished would doubtless be admitted by all
who speak in public or write for others to read. Many persons speaking
in private, acting on juries and connected with the machinery of
"justice" say that these should be punished like the rest. Still for a
starting point, it may be assumed that most men would agree that these
classes should be restrained rather than punished.

The chief difficulty is that between the most violently insane and the
least emotional man are infinite numbers of gradations blending so
closely that no one can mathematically or scientifically classify all
the various individual units. While there are cases of insanity that can
be clearly traced to injury or disease, the degree of sanity in most
cases is still impossible to determine. Most insane people are sane on
some things, generally on most things and are sane a part or most of the
time. The periods of sanity and insanity can be distinguished only by
conduct. How far any specific insanity may impair the brain and affect
the inhibitions, is impossible to foretell.

When it comes to the defective, the problem is still more difficult. No
two persons have the same degree of intelligence. Some are clearly
lacking in mentality. Others are manifestly intelligent. The great mass
range all along between these extremes. Various arbitrary rules have
been laid down to aid in classifying different grades of defectives.
Generally the feeble-minded can be sorted out. The defectives are
supposed, if young, to be two years or more below the normal scholar in
development; if older, three or more below. Their standing is fixed by
asking certain test questions. Furthermore, a list of questions has
been commonly used for an "intelligence test." These queries have
nothing to do with the school work of the child, but are supposed to
reveal only his native intelligence.

No doubt in a broad way such tests throw considerable light on the
mentality of those who submit to the examination. Ordinary experience,
however, shows that they cannot be fully relied on. Some children
develop very slowly, others very rapidly. Some are much quicker, others
slower in their perceptions and responses. No two children or grown-ups
have the same turn of mind. One may be very bright in business affairs
and very dull in books. One may be clever in arithmetic and hopeless in
grammar. One may have marked mechanical ability and no taste for school.
These tests are only valuable if given by well qualified examiners, and
the method is so new that few have had the chance to thoroughly prepare
for the work. For the most part the tests are given by people who are
wholly unfit for so important a task.

Quite aside from all this it is not certain that intelligent people are
necessarily safer to the community than stupid ones. There is always a
tendency for the stupid to stick to the beaten path. Intelligence
generally means individuality and divergence. On the other hand, the
stupid and subnormal are moved much more directly by instincts and
emotions. Their lack of imagination, poor perceptions and want of
reasoning or comparing power, make their self-control weak. In sudden
stress or an unusual situation, they are easily swept away and respond
directly to instinct and feeling. In short the urge of the primitive
through the long history of the race cannot be modified sufficiently by
the new structure that civilization has built around more intelligent

The various distinctions between the feeble-minded and the normal must
not be taken with too much confidence. As the motives that govern man
are understood, it is easy to see that intelligence is a strong factor
in regulating behavior. When it is seen also that at least the larger
part of the inmates of prisons are subnormal and at the same time
without property or education, it is evident that all these handicaps
are dominating causes of conduct. This position is made still more
certain by the further evidence that nearly all of the repeaters in
prison are of this type.

Most states already make some allowances in their criminal codes for the
defective and the insane. This is really an acknowledgment that the
activity of the human machine is governed by its make and environment.
The history of the treatment of the insane serves to show the
uncertainty of all man's theories as to punishment and responsibility.
Doubtless at a very early age in the history of man it was discovered
that there were people who acted so abnormally that they could not be
classified with the great mass. Such persons were supposed to be
possessed of devils or demons, and various incantations and practices
were used to drive the devils out. Failing in this they were put in
prison, loaded with chains or put to death because of their danger to
the community.

In other communities, however, insane persons were thought to be
possessed of special gifts. God had come nearer to them than to common
mortals, and they were seers or prophets endowed with a portion of the
divine power.

Either view of the problem is explainable by the lack of scientific or
exact knowledge that marks early societies. Still these societies relied
on punishments just as much as our present law-makers and enforcers,
possibly more, because presumably less enlightened. Further
investigation and experiences with the insane have convinced even the
most casual observer that they function somewhat differently from other
people; there is not the same certainty between stimulus and response.
What they will do and how they will act under given conditions cannot be
foretold with anything approaching the exactness that is possible with
the normal.

The origin of the insanity in many cases is clearly traceable: sometimes
to lesions; sometimes to illness; sometimes to the mode of life;
perhaps more is due to heredity than to any other cause. At any rate in
theory the civilized world has long since ceased to hold the insane
criminally responsible for their acts. This applies only to the clearly
insane. The border-line is impossible to find, and many cases are so
difficult to classify that there is often a doubt as to where the given
patient belongs. In times when the crowd is mad with the mob psychology
of hatred, people are impatient of insanity and do not care whether the
accused was sane or not at the time of the commission of the act. Many
insane are put to death or sentenced to long terms of punishments. Jails
and other penal institutions are constantly sorting their inmates and
finding many who were clearly insane at the time their sentences began.

Society is beginning to find out that even where there is no marked
insanity, many are so near idiocy that they cannot fairly be held
responsible for their acts. The line here is just as vague and uncertain
as with the insane. Thus far, society has not provided adequate
protection for the public against this class; neither has it properly
cared for these unfortunates. It has simply excused their conduct,
except in cases where some act is so shocking that it arouses special
hatred, and then it freely declares that it makes no difference whether
the accused is a defective or not; he is of no value to the world and
should die. Many of this class are put to death. I am inclined to think
that most of those executed are either insane or serious defectives; and
those who say that such people are of no value are probably right. It is
perhaps equally true that few if any are of value, for when value is
considered we are met with the question: "Value to whom, or for what?"
All you can say of any one is that he wishes to live, and has the same
inherent instincts and emotions toward life as are common to all other

Even the legal tests as to insanity and feeble-mindedness are neither
logical nor humane. Often the definition is given by courts that if one
is able to distinguish between right and wrong, he is sane within the
meaning of the law. This definition of insanity is utterly unscientific.
If the insane or the defective above an idiot is questioned specifically
whether certain distinct things are right or wrong, he can generally
give the conventional classification. Often he can tell much better than
the intelligent man, for he has been arbitrarily taught the things that
are right and wrong and has not the originality or ability to inquire
whether the classification is right or how far circumstances and
conditions determine right and wrong.

Conduct is ruled by emotion, and actions depend not upon whether one has
learned to classify certain conduct as right or wrong, but whether from
education, life or otherwise, the thought of a certain act produces a
quick and involuntary reaction against doing it. No one believes or
feels that it is always really wrong to violate some statutes, and most
men indulge in many practices that are wrong and repulsive but not
forbidden by the criminal code.

Furthermore, the insane and subnormal are influenced by punishment and
fear. Even the animal responds to both. It is possible that in many
instances those who are insane and subnormal are influenced by fear more
than the intelligent and normal. The most that can be said is that they
have not the same power of resistance that is given stronger men. This
means only that they have not stored up the experiences of life so well;
that their nervous system has not so well conveyed impressions, or that
their power of comparison is less; this, in turn, means that it will
take greater stress or harder environment to overcome the inhibitions of
the sane than the insane. The treatment of the insane and the defective
is an acknowledgment that all conduct comes from a direct response of
the machine to certain stimuli and the machine can act only in a way
consistent with its mechanism.

In other cases, the courts often recognize the strength of hereditary
defects in nullifying environment with its strict ideas of right and
wrong. The kleptomaniac is generally recognized as being a well-defined
class of the insane. Most of the shop-lifters are women. This is
especially a female crime. It is useless to explain why. It is not a
daring crime; it is secretive in its nature; it requires more stealth
than courage; it especially appeals to women on account of their taste
for the finery exhibited at stores. The kleptomaniac, however, is
generally a rich or influential woman. She steals something she does not
need, and she is therefore held to be a kleptomaniac and not

The poor woman who steals something she actually needs is not a
kleptomaniac. I have no doubt that the rich woman who could not resist
shop-lifting is a kleptomaniac. I have just as little doubt that the
poor woman, with an imperfect make, found her environment such that she
was forced to act as she did. If a rich woman is irresponsible and
cannot resist when she steals something she does not need, I can see no
reason why a poor woman is not likewise irresponsible when she takes
something that she needs or must have. The kleptomaniac finds herself in
a position where her emotions and her feelings are too strong for her
judgment and inhibitions. Everyone who acts must act from similar causes
or inducements. There is no special providence in the realm of mind.
There is no room for chance in any natural phenomenon. Possibly the
public will understand sometime, and law-makers and law-enforcers will
place crime and punishment on a scientific basis.



Organizations and cults are forever coining new expressions that sound
"pat" and for this reason seem true. As a rule, these terms and phrases
are put in the shape of general statements that may or may not mean
something; but their "pat" sound is used to justify all sorts of
excesses and violations of individual rights. The term "social control"
is met everywhere now. It may imply much or little, according to the
construction of the users. It is meant at least to imply that somewhere
is lodged a power to bring under control or supervision the refractory
or evil elements of society for the well being of the whole. As a rule,
under this phrase anything is justified which seems in some way fit for
the community as a whole. The fact that the restraint interferes with
personal liberty seems to have no bearing on the matter. Social control
necessarily means that the majority of the members of a social unit
shall limit the freedom of action of the individual to conform to its
view. Of course, the majority has the right because it has the power. In
the discussion of political or philosophical questions, "right" means
little more or less than "power." A right must be based upon some custom
or habit with some power to enforce it, or it cannot be claimed. It can
never be enjoyed without the power to obtain it.

The relation of society to the individual has been one long conflict.
This is necessarily true because every human organism has instincts,
feelings and desires and is naturally impatient at any limitations
placed upon it unless self-imposed. On the other hand, organized society
functions to preserve itself, and if the activities of the individual
are hostile to this preservation the individual must give way. Theorists
of various schools are forever propounding social ideas, with the
positive assurance that, if followed, they would work automatically and
heal all social ills. But it must be evident that neither from history
nor philosophy can any such theory be proved. Between the extreme
anarchistic view that each person should be free of control by law, and
the extreme socialistic view of an extension of state organization until
all property and all industrial activity shall be administered by the
state and collectively owned, social life in its relation to the
individual is always shifting. No one can find the proper line, and if
there were a line it would forever change. On the one hand, the power of
the strongest element in social organization is always seeking to
enlarge the province of the state. On the other hand, the individual
unit following the natural instincts for its development is reaching out
for more freedom and life. When the theorists in each camp manage to
push so hard that both can no longer be maintained, the old organization
of society breaks up into new units, immediately to re-form in some new

This struggle of contending forces is a prolific and unavoidable source
of crime. When organized society goes too far, the individual units
rebel and clash with law; when the units swing too far away from the
social organization and defy the power of the state, almost
automatically some sort of a new organization becomes the state. Whether
this new one discards all old forms and laws and acts without the
written law, is of no concern. It at least acts and sets limits to the
individual life. If it were possible for all legislative bodies to meet
and repeal all laws, the state would still remain; the people would live
and automatically form themselves into a certain order and protect that
order either by written law or vigilance committees. At least the people
would act together.

The majority generally has some religious creed, and to it this is all
important. This creed is made up of observances, such as holy days, the
support of the prevailing religion, the condemnation of witchcraft and
magic, and the like. These and other doctrines often have been enforced
upon those who have no faith in the regulations. The enforcement of
such laws in the past has been by the most drastic penalties and has
brought extreme suffering upon the world. No religious organization has
ever seemed willing to confine its activities to propaganda, teaching
and moral suasion; those methods are too slow, and the evils and
consequences of disbelief are too great. Laws of this drastic character
are still part of the penal codes of various states and nations, and
well-organized bodies are always strenuously seeking to extend the
application of such laws and re-enact at least a portion of the
religious code that has been outgrown.

Individuals have likewise found, or at least believed, that certain
personal habits were best for them, for instance, abstaining from
alcohol and tobacco in all forms. Not content with propaganda, they have
sought to force their views upon others, many of whom deeply resent
their interference.

It is not enough that certain things shall be best for the health and
physical welfare of a community. This does not justify the wise
law-giver in making them a part of the penal code. If so, the code would
be very long. No doubt coffee and tea, and perhaps meat, are injurious
to health. Most likely the strength of the community would be conserved
if regular sleeping hours were kept and if great modifications or
changes were made in dress. But this does not justify criminal statutes.
The code must take notice of something more than the general welfare.
Unless the end sought to be attained is very direct and plain and the
evil great so that a large majority believes in the law, it should be
left to education and to other voluntary social forces.

A large part of the community has always attributed many criminal acts
to intoxicating drinks. I am convinced that with such crimes as murder,
burglary, robbery, forgery and the like, alcohol has had little to do.
Petty things, like disorderly conduct, are often caused by intoxicating
liquor, and these land a great many temporarily in jail, but these acts
are really not criminal. Men have been temporarily locked up for
over-drinking. If over-eating had been treated the same as over-drinking,
the jails would often be filled with gluttons. As to health, probably
the glutton takes the greater chance. A very large percentage of deaths
would have been materially delayed except for excessive eating. The
statements ascribing crime to intoxicating drinks have generally been
made by those who are obsessed with a hatred of alcohol. As a rule if
one lands in prison and has not been a total abstainer, his downfall is
charged to rum. Statistics have been gathered in prison often by
chaplains who, in the main, are prohibitionists and interested in
sustaining an opinion. The facts are mainly furnished by inmates of
prisons, a poor source from which to gather facts and draw deductions,
especially as to the cause of crime. Prisoners are interested in only
one thing, and that is getting out. They understand perfectly well what
kind of statistics the chaplain wants and these are given. It is the
nature and part of the protective instinct of everyone to find some
excuse for his acts. Alcohol has always furnished this excuse. It is a
good alibi; it is readily believed, always awakens sympathy and at once
turns the wrath of a provincial community from the inmate of the prison
to the saloon-keeper.

Even if prisoners were unlike others and wished to tell the truth about
themselves, they have not the art and understanding to give the causes
of their plight. No man, however intelligent, can do this, least of all
one of inferior brain power, little education and not trained in dealing
with facts. The prison inmate, like everyone else, knows only that he
followed what seemed to him the line of least resistance, and that every
step in his course was preceded by another and that there was a reason
for what he did. Most likely he does not know the reason. In the hours
of his despair he goes over his life in every detail, at every
crossroad, and at all the forks where paths branch, always wishing he
had gone the other way.

While this is true, he could know neither the dangers that lurked along
other roads, nor the fact that he had no choice about the way he went.
All he knows is that he stumbled along a certain path which led to
disaster. All the paths of life lead to tragedy; it is only a question
as to how and when. With some, the evil day is longer delayed and the
disaster seems not so hard to bear.

In a sense, all the classifications as to the cause of crime are
misleading and worthless. Your existence is the result of infinite
chances and causes appalling in their number. Out of a thousand eggs,
one is fertilized by perhaps one of a billion sperms, and from this you
have been given life. Each of your parents and grandparents and so on,
back for two hundred thousand years of human ancestors, and back to
infinity before man was born, was the result of the same seemingly blind
and almost impossible hazard. The infinitely microscopic chance that
each of us had for life cannot be approximated. All the drops of water
in the ocean, or all the grains of sand upon the shore, or all the
leaves on all the trees, if converted into numbers and used as a
denominator, with one for a numerator, could hardly tell the fraction of
a chance that gave us life.

The causes of human action are infinite, and no cause stands isolated
from the rest. In the first place we cannot tell the meaning of the word
"cause" when applied to a problem of this sort. In law the ordinary
rule for a "proximate cause" is "an event or happening in the direct
line of causation, not too remote, that has led to the result, and
without which the result could not have happened." But this means
nothing. Infinite are the causes which have led to every act, and
without each one of the infinite causes the act could not have resulted.
If it be something that affected a life, and had it not happened then
the life would have drifted somewhere else. In the end it would have
reached the same harbor of Nirvana. But the life would not have been the
same. A drop of water falls on the Rocky Mountains, it trickles along,
going around through pebbles and grains of sand; it joins with others,
meets trees and roots, winds and twists perhaps for hundreds, even
thousands of miles before one can tell by what channel it will reach the
sea. Infinite accidents determine even which sea it shall finally reach.
The most radical advocates of social control are never at a loss to lay
their fingers on causes or to know what would have happened if something
else had not happened; they never hesitate to forbid seemingly innocent
acts because they are certain that evil will follow. They are
contemptuous of one who wants to preserve the semblance and spirit of

Life has none too much to offer where men are left to control
themselves, and to be forbidden to follow your inclinations and desires
because sometimes they may result disastrously, is to give up what seems
to be a substance for what is most likely a shadow.

All we can tell about the man whom we are pleased to call a criminal, is
that he had a poor equipment and met certain influences, motives and
conditions, called environment, on his journey. We know that at a given
time the journey has reached a certain point; it has met disaster or
success, or most likely indifference. At a certain point he has reached
a prison or is waiting for the hangman to tie a noose around his neck.
Is heredity responsible? We know of many who apparently started out with
an equipment no better. These may be business men and congressmen and
deacons in the church. While we do not know and cannot know the trend
and relative strength of the instincts in the various machines or the
emotions that these and the whole equipment produced, apparently an
equipment as poor as that of the criminal has met success, or at least
kept its possessor out of jail. Was it then his environment? We have
known men placed in the same environment, perhaps a brother, conquering
difficulties and bringing success from what seemed to promise certain
defeat. Why did one fail where the other conquered? Was it the "will"
that caused one to be the "captain of his soul"? What then is the
"will" and who gave the weak will to one and the strong will to another?
And, if each was born with a certain "will" or the capacity to make a
certain "will", who then is responsible for the result? Or, does the
word "will" mean anything, as usually applied?

All we can tell is that a certain equipment met a certain environment,
and the result was early disaster. A change of even the slightest factor
of environment might have saved the victim from hanging, so that he
could die a respectable and peaceful death from tuberculosis or cancer.

After all, the inevitable tragedy that in some form marks the end is not
so important as the sensations and experiences that one meets on the
road. Life is hopeless and colorless indeed if these experiences are
chosen for the wayfarer and the sensations are enforced or denied, as
the case may be. Nothing recompenses the individual for the denial of
his chance to follow his own path.



It was not until about the middle of the eighteenth century that the
desire for the creation and accumulation of property began to rule the
world. Up to that time such small amounts of property as man needed or
coveted had either been produced in a simple manner by himself or taken
in the easiest way.

This new passion has made a large part of the modern criminal code. A
world of warriors, religious zealots and pastoral people could not
readily adapt themselves to the change. Criminal codes were lengthened;
methods of getting property and keeping it were provided for, and other
ways condemned. It must be obvious that it was not easy for man with his
age-old machine, his inherited institutions and his ancient folk-ways,
to adjust himself rapidly to the change. New conditions and laws created
new criminals.

With the growth of the factory system and accelerated industrial
development, an overweening desire for material things was awakened. As
neither individuals nor societies can be possessed of more than one
overpowering emotion at a time, the devotion to property naturally
weakened religious fervor. Religion became more an abstract belief and a
social organization than a vital thing affecting life and conduct. Even
before this time there was growing up in the world a protest against the
religious superstition that had led to the cruelties of the past. The
scientist and the modern philosopher were making their contributions to
the world of thought, and these contributions were slowly affecting life
and conduct.

A doubt of old creeds and doctrines and faiths was coming over the minds
of men. Social conventions were loosening, new customs and habits were
becoming folk-ways. In short, society and life were growing more fluid
and adaptable. The growth of property holdings created new desires and
new temptations. The accumulation of large fortunes brought envy and
hatred and ambition. The rise of industries built the large cities, with
palaces on one hand and hovels on the other. The vast inequality of
wealth and the growth of workers' organizations, together with the
spirit of skepticism which activity always brings, caused large numbers
to doubt the justice of property rights, the utility of many
institutions and the possibility of radical change by social
organization. It is perfectly evident that all of this movement brought
more conflict between social units, a constant lengthening of the
criminal code to protect the interests of the controlling powers, an
increase of prisons, and an apparent if not a real increase of crime.

Nothing but a strong government can long endure great inequality of
wealth or social condition. The slaves of the past civilization were
kept in subjection by main strength and fear. This enslavement was aided
by the deep ignorance of the masses who had no means of information and
nothing but vague feelings of the injustice of their lot. Even then the
poor sometimes revolted, but such outbreaks were generally easily put
down by the sword. The growth of political power and industrial
independence has been accompanied by the constant conflict of social
forces. This means conflict with the law, and the law has always taken
its toll of victims.

New inventions and methods that bring power of any sort carry with them
social clashes, protests, bitterness, conflicts and violations of law.
The invention of gun-powder was the source of great conflict and still
continues to add to the inmates of prisons. From the first, the
far-reaching effects of high explosives were seen by the wise, and
firearms were permitted only in the hands of those who could be depended
upon to support the state. Gradually through the needs of the rulers in
war they were given to the poor. When the American Revolution separated
us from Great Britain, the spirit of democracy and revolt was strong in
the world. A body of peasants had gained independence over the strongest
nation on earth. This body, through its delegates, provided in the
Constitution of the United States that the people should never be
forbidden to bear arms. The cheap production of firearms placed them in
the hands of all who wished to buy. This aided feuds and brawls. It also
gave strength to the burglar and robber.

America was fast becoming a manufacturing and commercial nation. The
accumulation of property was greater, and the inequalities perhaps more
marked than in any other land; likewise the poor were more independent.
Gradually we came to rely more and more upon the power of law and the
force that goes with it to preserve the old order. Legislatures and city
councils all over the United States began to limit and forbid carrying
firearms. The Constitution of the United States was held no impediment
to this legislation. Gradually laws have forbidden the carrying of guns
by the common man, and these laws are growing stronger every year. In
many states robbery with a gun may mean life imprisonment, while the
mere carrying of a revolver is a serious offense. The passage of these
drastic laws and the number of prison inmates confined for these
offenses show that the invention and use of firearms has affected crime,
and likewise that the government is constantly growing more doubtful of
the common man.

Civilization largely has to do with the creation and protection of
property. Although it is related to literature, architecture, politics,
art and the like; even these things if not actually rooted in property
are stimulated or affected by property. Civilization has created new
crimes and new ways to commit crime. It has likewise created many wants
and desires that furnish the motive power of property crimes. Each new
invention of civilization adds to these needs and these desires,
increases the power of committing crime, and necessitates stricter
measures to prevent it. Civilization has likewise created many new
outlets for the emotions, strengthened old ones, weakened others and
added to the complexity of life. It has imposed added strain and stress
upon man's nervous system and through this has caused the abnormalities
and excesses that are either crimes or lead to crimes.

Civilization has created the big cities; in other words, the powers and
forces that made civilization have made the big cities. The invention
and development of the railroad has taken men from the air and sunlight
and comparative freedom of motion of the country and the small village,
and placed them in an atmosphere not really fitted for normal animal
life, especially the life of the young. It has likewise stimulated crime
by offering the opportunities and making the suggestions that are
potent factors in crime. In country and village life everyone was known,
the smallest detail of every life was an open book. This fact furnished
a moral restraint to the individual and likewise made it hard for him to
violate the rules of the game. The opportunities for collecting large
numbers of people who might encourage each other with their conversation
and association were very few in rural life. The man who would violate
the law must do it alone. Not only this, but he must take his first
steps almost without suggestion or aid. This confined criminal conduct
largely to the feeble-minded and the seriously defective, and even these
could generally live in a country atmosphere where life is simple and
easy, without serious danger to themselves or others.

The great city with its swarms of people, its wealth and poverty, its
unhealthy atmosphere, its opportunities for everyone to have many
associates and still be lost to the community at large, makes irregular
lives not only easy, but almost necessary to large numbers of men.
Civilization has no doubt created crime as it has created luxury,
wealth, refinement and ease. Much luxury has always led to deterioration
and decay and is doubtless leading that way now.

One of the latest products of civilization that has had a marked effect
on crime is the automobile. Stringent laws are on the statute books of
all states against stealing automobiles, yet stealing and selling
automobiles is a flourishing and growing business. A large percentage of
the boys in the juvenile courts of our cities are there for stealing
automobiles. Yet this is the work of a very short period. I do not mean
to say that many of the boys brought into court for stealing automobiles
would not have committed some other crime, if automobiles had not been
invented and come into general use, but I feel quite sure that many of
them are victims of the automobile madness alone.

The automobile is one of the latest manias and fashions that
civilization has provided. Almost no one is free from the disease.
Conservative business men must have motor cars; clerks and salaried
people who cannot afford them must get them; mechanics and professional
men who have no need for them, except that others use them, must
contrive to buy them. Automobiles are much more important today than
houses. Men go into debt and struggle for money to buy gasoline so that
they may drive somewhere for the sake of coming back. It has created a
psychology all its own, a psychology of movement, of impatience, of
waste, of futility. Men in Chicago start to drive to Milwaukee without
the slightest reason for going there; they travel the road so fast that
they could get no idea of the scenery even if there were something to
see. They hurry as if going for a doctor. They reach their destination
and then start back home. The specific desire that is satisfied by this
expense and waste is a new one, an emotion of no value in the life
processes and probably of great injury in life development. It is a
craze for movement, for haste, for what seems like change.

The automobile has made its list of criminals, and it is making them
every day. Probably it will continue to make them until the flying
machine is perfected, and then to some extent at least the airplane will
take its place.

The truth is that man is not adapted to the automobile. His reactions
are too simple; his inherent needs are not adjusted to the new life; he
has not been built up with barriers to protect him from this insidious
temptation which is claiming its victims by the hundreds every day.

The boy is perfectly helpless in the presence of this lure. He wants to
do what others do. He is by nature active and venturesome and needs to
keep on the move. The mechanism itself appeals to him. He wants to work
in a garage. He is anxious to be a chauffeur. He cannot resist an
automobile. No such temptation should be placed before a boy. It has
added a great deal to the responsibility of parents and teachers, and so
far they seem not to have been able to meet that responsibility in any
way. Aside from the boys' thefts it has played a great part in crime.
The doctor, the real estate agent, the business man cannot afford to be
without automobiles. No more can the burglar, the hold-up man, the bank
robber, if he would keep up to date. The automobile has raised the
robbery of country banks from a vagrant crime, infrequent and dangerous,
to a steady occupation coupled with a great deal of excitement and some
chance for profit. So far no one has ever suggested anything to
counteract or lessen the evil effects except to increase penalties. The
crimes committed with and for automobiles are a result of the conditions
of life. Out of a thousand men and boys, a certain percentage must
commit these crimes just as a certain percentage must die of
tuberculosis. The temptation is very great. The human equipment is not
strong enough in many people to withstand the temptation. They either
buy them when they cannot afford to own them, or they steal them, and
either way leads to disaster. No doubt men will some time become
adjusted to the automobile as they have become adjusted to the horse,
but until that time comes, it will demand its heavy toll of

Not only, it seems to me, does the growth of civilization mean the
growth of crime, but that civilization likewise leads to decay. The
world has seen the result over and over again, but it cannot learn. Man
is an animal; the law of his being demands that he shall live close to
nature; he needs the outdoors, the country, the air; he needs to walk
and run; otherwise his digestive apparatus will fail, his brain power
will decay, and the strength of his legs will be impaired. Civilization
runs too much to stomach and nerves, and Nature will have revenge. To be
sure, the professional American rhapsodist points out that we are immune
from natural law because we have a chance to vote for presidents once in
every four years. But there are ample signs that Nature knows little
about political institutions or other man-made devices and that she will
have her way.

How much the natural limitations of man will permit him to learn and
understand; how far his instincts and emotional nature would allow him
to be controlled by knowledge, if he had it; what would be the results
to life if reason could control him, are pertinent questions that affect
all discussion and which may never be satisfactorily answered. It is
entirely possible that the student who tries to point out better ways
and teach better methods does it only to satisfy his own emotions and is
often conscious that it does nothing else. But, whatever the inducing
cause or result, given a brain and nervous system and the material that
civilization furnishes for reflection, these and other important
subjects will be interesting topics of study and furnish material for
the reflective powers of man.



All natural phenomena affect the activities of man. It has been
repeatedly observed that the number of crimes of assault and murder
increases in the summer months and fluctuates with extreme heat or a
cooler temperature. The nervous system of man is responsive to all sorts
of physical and psychological influences, and criminologists take these
into account in considering crime, as doctors take them into account in
treating disease. Man is influenced by substantially all the things that
affect other structures and by many things that do not. His nervous
system is more delicate, his emotional nature more complex, and his
brain permits the handling of impressions in a way not possible to lower

The effect of war has always been manifest in human conduct. Man acts
largely from habit and custom; he does as others do, without reflection
as to why he should do it or why others do it. War is a sudden, violent
and spectacular destroyer of all established habits. In its conduct and
preparation it has rules of its own which have no analogy in civil
life. The battlefield is a reversion to the primitive; a reversion which
man finds it easy to make, for it appeals to fundamental instincts which
civilization holds in leash with great difficulty and never with entire
success. War especially appeals to the young. Their desire for activity,
their impatience with restraint, their love of the spectacular, their
untrained emotions, all find a ready outlet in war. Even those who are
too young to fight still read of it, talk of it, play at it to the
exclusion of other games. War is a profound and rapid maker of mental
attitudes and of complexes that are quick to develop and slow to pass
away. Both the quick development and slow decay are probably due to the
fact that war meets a decided response in the primitive nature of man.

Nearly all the newspapers of America are now calling attention to the
increase of crime since the close of the Great War. It is a topic of
pulpit and platform discussion. Wild appeals are made for convictions
and extreme penalties. Governors and boards of pardon and parole are
urged to refuse clemency to prisoners and are roundly condemned when
they do their plain duty, even though they do it very reluctantly and

It is probably true that the close of the war has shown a large increase
in criminality, especially in crimes of violence. This is true not only
of America but of all European countries. In some of the most afflicted
ones civil government for a time has virtually broken down. Both the
great need for food and clothing and the overthrowing of conventions,
customs and habits are responsible for the change. Here we perceive a
notable example of the almost instantaneous disruption of established

For more than four years most of the western world did nothing but kill.
The whole world talked of slaughter and devoted its energy to killing.
Every sentiment of humanity was forgotten. Even religious ties and
religious commands were ignored. The prayers to the Almighty contained
requests that He help the various fighting nations to kill their
enemies. Everyone was taught to hate. The leaders in the war knew that
boys could not do efficient killing unless they learned to fear and
hate. The most outrageous falsehoods were freely circulated by every
nation about its enemies and their conduct of the war. The highest
rewards were offered for new and more efficient ways to kill. Every
school was turned over to hate and preparation for war, and, of course,
all the churches joined in the universal craze. God would not only
forgive killing but reward those who were the most expert at the game.

The newspapers carried stories of battles every day, the dead and
wounded often running into the tens of thousands. None of the reports
was exact. Nothing was true. Everything was wild and exaggerated. Facts
were not strong enough to make an impression. Lies were deliberately
circulated to help the cause.

Every tradition and habit of life was broken and broken all the time.
The commandment, "Thou shalt not kill," was repealed. Property was not
only ruthlessly destroyed but openly confiscated. Lying was a fine art.
When this bears a harvest after the war, the public loudly clamors for
hanging boys whose psychology is a direct result of long and intensive
training by the leaders of the world.

One life is not worth considering in the face of the holocaust that has
taken its hundreds of thousands and has been defended in the schools and
churches. It is not strange that the after-war harvest of crimes should
come largely from boys, often those boys who did their part on the field
of battle. Whether they got the psychology from killing or reading or
hearing or playing soldier or training makes no difference. Everyone who
has any reasoning power knows that they got it, that it was deliberately
given to them if not forced upon them, and that just as deliberately the
state is killing them because they took it.

It is not alone the young who show this psychology of killing that has
grown out of the war. Organized society, the public, juries, judges,
pardon boards and governors, show that war has made them cruel and
wanton of human life. The great number of hangings since the war is
patent to all observers. In normal times juries were very loath to
pronounce the death penalty. With any possible excuse they always saved
life. Now they pride themselves on taking life. Even insanity does not
always prevent an execution.

Numerous are the evidences of the derangements the war has created and
left behind. A few years ago a prize fight would not have been permitted
in more than one or two states in the Union. Now state after state is
passing laws to permit prize fights to take place, and even the best
society has given its sanction to this sort of sport. Whether the state
should permit prize fights is not the question. The fact is, as everyone
knows, that it is permitted on account of a psychology growing out of
the war. We content ourselves with saying it will never do to raise our
boys as molly-coddles; they must learn to fight.

It is not alone murder that can be traced directly to the war
psychology. Robbery and burglary have rapidly increased, and much of
this is due to the emotions of boys. The robbing of country banks has
grown to be almost a pastime, and often one or more participants in
these raids is a returned soldier.

What should be done to meet these new conditions? Common honesty,
common sense and common humanity alike plainly show that a large part of
the crimes of violence are due to the war. Will hangings and life
sentences stop them? And, if so, is it right for organized society to
ignore its responsibility and place it on the young men that they
innoculated with the universal madness? It is expecting too much to
think that there is any process by which society can be made to think
and feel. Some day, however, when the war fever passes away crime will
again take its normal place.

This phenomenon is not new in the world. Everyone interested has noted
it before. It has followed all great wars. War means the breaking up of
old habits, the destruction of many inhibitions, which in the strongest
civilization are only skin deep at the best. It means the return to the
primitive feelings that once ruled man.

The Napoleonic Wars left a long heritage of crime. Every nation in
Europe was affected by them. Many years passed before the world grew
tranquil. Our Civil War brought its harvest of crime. It was felt both
North and South. It was not confined to homicide but was shown in all
sorts of criminal statistics, especially crimes of violence.

I do not write as a pacifist. There is nothing in the constitution of
man that makes pacifism anything but a dream. Man is largely ruled by
fear and hate, and it is not possible to imagine an individual or a
race that under sufficient provocation will not fight. Neither is it
possible that nations will not always, from time to time, find the
provocation sufficiently great. Individuals and nations can philosophize
and reason and make compromises when they are calm; but let them be
moved by fear and hatred, and these emotions will sweep away every other
feeling. The conditions for war were ripe in 1914, and it was inevitable
that America should be in it too. This should not make one wish for war
nor believe in war nor close one's eyes to its horrors and results. Much
less should it prevent him from trying to do his part to restore sanity
to the world.

Another consequence of war which America is passing through is the
spirit of super-patriotism. This is always aroused and must be aroused
to carry on the war. It is potent in creating the psychology that makes
men fight. Every people teaches that its own country is the best; that
its laws and institutions excel those of all other lands. This spirit is
taken advantage of and used by designing men. It is used to send to jail
those who criticise existing things. It is used to hamper and destroy
any effort to change laws and institutions. The one who criticises
conditions is a disturber and a traitor. Those who profit by existing
things are always intense patriots and by means of cheap appeals and
trite expressions seek to stifle discussion and criticism. This war has
borne a deadly harvest of restrictive legislation in America. We are no
longer an asylum for political offenders. We no longer stand for freedom
of speech. Old traditions and constitutional and legal guarantees have
been swept aside under the hysteria which has prevailed during and since
the war. These results were inevitable and will follow war as long as
man is man.

All the after-effects of the World War show how completely man is ruled
by forces over which he has no control. If considerable numbers of the
people have been moved by war hysteria, and if a large part of crime is
directly traceable to war, it seems plain that all human action could be
traced to some controlling cause, if only man could be wise enough and
industrious and humane enough to find the cause. It is plain that the
law of cause and effect influences mental phenomena as it does physical
acts, and sometime, perhaps, men will seek to avoid the effect by
removing the cause.



As children we have all amused ourselves by looking into a kaleidoscope,
turning it around and around and watching the changing patterns formed
from the mixing bits of different colored glass in the other end. Each
turn makes a different pattern and each bit of glass seems to seek a
spot in the general medley where it can be settled until another turn
drives it to find a resting place somewhere else. The organization of
individual units into a group is more or less such a formation, each
seeking to adjust itself to a pattern and finding that the pattern is
ever-changing and the individual units obliged to seek new positions and
make new adjustments.

It is vain for social theorists to talk of a perfect order, a system of
social organization that will find the proper place for each unit and
bring social symmetry out of the whole. Such a society is not consistent
with the varied capacities and wants of men. Neither is a perfect order
possible with ever-changing and moving physical forces, with new mental
conceptions, with new needs and wants, with constant births and deaths,
and with the innate instincts of man.

Some system may be the best for a time but must in turn give place to
new formations. In this process the old is ever mixed with the new. The
past hangs on to plague the present, and the vision of the future
disturbs the quiet and stability that the present inherited from the
past. Organizations of society are necessary and automatic. The frost on
the window pane takes its pattern, the crystals in the glass and stone
have their formations, the grain of sand, the plant--all forms of animal
life--the solar system and, doubtless, an infinite number of other
systems which the eye cannot see or the mind comprehend take on form and
order. The symmetry and shape of any of these organizations may be
shattered by growth or catastrophe, and new forms may take their place.
All life is constant friction and constant adjustment, each particle in
a blind way trying to find a more harmonious relation, but never
reaching complete rest.

The social and political patterns that men have taken have been of many
forms. All through the past these have changed, and the laws and habits
that were meant to hold men together, have been made and discarded as
fast as new emotions or ideas have gained the power to make the change.
Men are of all degrees of adaptability. Some can readily conform to the
new. Some adjust themselves very slowly. Man's structure is fixed; his
inherent instincts are of ancient origin, always urging him to primitive
reactions; his habits are slowly formed and slowly changed. Slowly he
settles himself to the conditions that surround him. He learns their
demands; he manages to conform, but the folk-ways that he knew and the
way of life he learned must be changed to something else. Every new
adjustment, every change of organization, every modification made by
civilization, bears its toll of victims who have not been able to adjust
themselves to the new order.

The first criminal regulations, doubtless, had to do with the personal
relations of men. The number of offenses was small for life was simple,
wants were few, and ambition rare. The growth of religion created a
ferocious criminal code, regulating every thought and action that God's
agents thought might offend the Deity or threaten their power on earth.
Anyone interested in the story of punishment for heresy, sorcery or
other crimes growing out of religious fanaticism, can read the story in
Lecky's _History of Rationalism in Europe_, in White's _A History of the
Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom_, in Draper's
_Intellectual Development of Europe_, and in many other books. The
Spanish Inquisition alone furnished about 350,000 victims in the two
centuries of its power. Many of them were burned alive, many others were
killed by the most cruel torture that could be devised by man. Up to
recent times more victims have been put to death for heresy and kindred
crimes against religion than for any other cause. Next to this no doubt
stand political crimes. Even America hanged old women for witchcraft, a
crime they could not commit. Practically all the victims of religious
and political persecution have been guiltless of any real crimes, and
among them were always many of the noblest of their age.

Every general change of religious or political ideas bears its quota of
crimes. For whatever the religious or political organization, it always
uses every means in its power to perpetuate itself. This is as true of
republics as of monarchies, although the severity of punishment and the
amount of heresy permitted change from time to time. Each age is sure
that it has the true religion and the God-given political organization.
In every age the accepted religion is true, and the king and the state
can do no wrong.

One thing only seems to be sure. Human nature does not change. Whether
it was the theological systems of the ancient world fighting to keep
Christianity out, or Christianity fighting to preserve itself, the same
cruel, bigoted, fanatical majority has been found to do its will, and
the same reasons and excuses have served the law from the earliest
times down to today.

A letter of the younger Pliny, who was then governor of Bythinia-Pontus,
a province of Rome, asking the Emperor Trajan for instructions in
dealing with the early Christians shows how persistent are intolerance
and bigotry. This might have been written yesterday to seek advice in
the suppression of opinion and punishment for sedition in any of the
most advanced governments of the modern world, as it was in the most
advanced of the ancient world. The letter is here reproduced as an
interesting exhibit of human nature and it fixity.

Pliny, the younger, was born in 61 A.D. and became governor of the
province of Bythinia-Pontus about the year 112 A.D. under the Emperor
Trajan. In the discharge of his duties as governor, Pliny discovered
that the conversion of many of his subjects to Christianity had resulted
in a falling off of trade in the victims usually purchased for
sacrifices at the temples and in other commodities used in connection
with pagan worship. As a good governor, Pliny sought to remedy this
economic situation, and his plan was to restore his subjects to their
old forms of worship. Thus he was brought into contact with
Christianity. The following letters, one from Pliny to Trajan, and the
other, Trajan's reply, show the situation. These documents are from the
Tenth Book of Pliny's Correspondence, Letters 97 and 98.


It is my invariable rule, Sir, to refer to you in all matters where
I feel doubtful; for who is more capable of removing my scruples, or
informing my ignorance? Having never been present at any trials
concerning those who profess Christianity, I am unacquainted not
only with the nature of their crimes, or the measure of their
punishment, but how far it is proper to enter into an examination
concerning them. Whether, therefore, any difference is usually made
with respect to ages, or no distinction is to be observed between
the young and the adult; whether repentance entitles them to a
pardon; or if a man has been once a Christian, it avails nothing to
desist from his error; whether the very profession of Christianity,
unattended with any criminal act, or only the crimes themselves
inherent in the profession are punishable; on all these points I am
in great doubt. In the meanwhile, the method I have observed towards
those who have been brought before me as Christians is this: I asked
them whether they were Christians; if they admitted it, I repeated
the question twice, and threatened them with punishment; if they
persisted, I ordered them to be at once punished: for I was
persuaded, whatever the nature of their opinions might be, a
contumacious and inflexible obstinacy certainly deserved correction.

There were others also brought before me possessed with the same
infatuation, but being Roman citizens, I directed them to be sent to
Rome. But this crime spreading (as is usually the case) while it was
actually under prosecution, several instances of the same nature
occurred. An anonymous information was laid before me, containing a
charge against several persons, who upon examination denied they
were Christians, or had ever been so. They repeated after me an
invocation to the gods, and offered religious rites with wine and
incense before your statue (which for that purpose I had ordered to
be brought, together with those of the gods), and even reviled the
name of Christ: whereas there is no forcing, it is said, those who
are really Christians into any of these compliances: I thought it
proper, therefore, to discharge them. Some among those who were
accused by a witness in person at first confessed themselves
Christians, but immediately after denied it: the rest owned indeed
that they had been of that number formerly, but had now (some above
three, others more, and a few above twenty years ago) renounced that
error. They all worshipped your statue and the images of the gods,
uttering imprecations at the same time against the name of Christ.
They affirmed the whole of their guilt, or their error, was, that
they met on a stated day before it was light, and addressed a form
of prayer to Christ, as to a divinity, binding themselves by a
solemn oath, not for the purposes of any wicked design, but never to
commit any fraud, theft, or adultery, never to falsify their word,
nor deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up;
after which it was their custom to separate, and then re-assemble,
to eat in common a harmless meal. From this custom, however, they
desisted after the publication of my edict, by which, according to
your commands, I forbade the meeting of any assemblies.

After receiving this account, I judged it so much the more necessary
to endeavor to extort the real truth, by putting two female slaves
to the torture, who were said to officiate in their religious rites:
but all I could discover was evidence of an absurd and extravagant
superstition. I deemed it expedient, therefore, to adjourn all
further proceedings, in order to consult you. For it appears to be a
matter highly deserving your consideration, more especially as great
numbers must be involved in the danger of these prosecutions, which
have already extended, and are still likely to extend, to persons of
all ranks and ages, and even of both sexes. In fact, this contagious
superstition is not confined to the cities only, but has spread its
infection among the neighboring villages and country. Nevertheless,
it still seems possible to restrain its progress. The temples, at
least, which were once almost deserted, begin now to be frequented;
and the sacred rites, after a long intermission, are again revived;
while there is a general demand for the victims, which till lately
found very few purchasers. From all this it is easy to conjecture
what numbers might be reclaimed if a general pardon were granted to
those who shall repent of their error.


You have adopted a right course, my dearest Secundus, in
investigating the charges against the Christians who were brought
before you. It is not possible to lay down any general rule for all
such cases. Do not go out of your way to look for them. If indeed
they should be brought before you, and the crime is proved, they
must be punished; with the restriction, however, that where the
party denies he is a Christian, and shall make it evident that he is
not, by invoking our gods, let him (notwithstanding any former
suspicion) be pardoned upon his repentance. Anonymous information
ought not to be received in any sort of prosecution. It is
introducing a very dangerous precedent, and is quite foreign to the
spirit of our age.

Civilization is largely a question of new machinery and methods. It is
not the humanizing of men. It is plain that no matter what the time or
age, the characteristics of man remain the same. His structure does not
change; his emotional life cannot change. New objects and desires may
control his feeling, but whatever the aim of the age and place, the same
inherent emotions control.

Intolerance has been one of the great sources of evil all down the ages.
It is practically certain that neither time nor education has made man
more kindly in his judgment of his fellows or more tolerant in his
opinions and life. All that education can do is to remove some of the
inducing causes that have always brought the sharp conflicts and
awakened the cruelty of man.

Every civilization brings new evils and new complexities which man meets
with the same machine and the same emotions. It is fairly certain that
no nobler idealism or no finer feelings have been planted or cultivated
in man since the dawn of history, and when it is thoroughly realized
that man's structure is fixed and cannot be changed it seems as if none
could be developed.



Human nature is so weak and imperfect that, at its best, it needs all
the encouragement it can get. The comradeship of friends, and the
attitude of the public and acquaintances are of the greatest importance
in effecting the development of most lives. Sooner or later the
convicted man is turned out either on probation or parole, or at the
expiration of his sentence. He was probably none too strong a man before
his conviction. His heredity was poor in most cases, and his environment
completed his downfall. He faces the world again with a serious handicap
that he did not have at first. If he had just recovered from a severe
illness, everyone he met would do all he could to help him; his
environment would be made easier than before his confinement in the
hospital; and especially from the conditions that placed him there, both
society and his neighbors would try to see that he should, as far as
possible, be saved. If he had been one of those who could live only by
means of his own work, and if on account of himself or his family he had
been obliged to over-strain, an easier place would probably be found
for him. The chances of going to the hospital the second time would be
very much less than they were the first time. Even his experience in
confinement would be of use, and through that experience he would be
taught to live and preserve his health.

The discharged prisoner is met in an entirely different way. The
ex-convict is under doubt and suspicion from the start. On the slightest
provocation he is reminded of his past. He is always under suspicion
unless, perhaps, he professes a change of heart. Such a change implies a
physical process which is impossible. Some sudden exaltation may furnish
him a new emotion for a time, but this can last only while the stimulus
has power to act. It will soon pass away and the man will be himself
again. It may be possible that here and there is a nature of such an
emotional temperament, that religion or socialism or single tax or some
other strong conviction may possess him until such time as his feelings
begin to cool and change, when he will be safe. But most men are
inherently the same when they come out of prison as when they go in.
Under right treatment they may gain a little more wisdom as to life that
will help them make adjustments; or they may be relieved from some
burdens, or placed in an environment of less stress and strain where it
will be easier to live. In those cases, the attitude and help of the
community are all-important.

Society is not entirely to blame for looking on him with suspicion. It
knows he once failed. It has been taught that this failure was due to a
moral delinquency outside the law of cause and effect, and society is
naturally suspicious that he will offend again or molest the community
in some other way. Had he been confined because he had not the strength
to meet his environment; had the law put him in custody under expert
control until he gained the strength for his battle with life; or had a
new environment been provided under scientific direction as in the case
of a hospital patient, society would then take another view and do all
it could to help him. New comrades and associates would surround him to
show him the way, and they would make his burden lighter. Instead of
this, he comes out with his ability to adjust himself to life lessened.
If a crime is committed in his community he is blamed or at least
suspected. He is known to the police and often "rounded-up." This
directly interferes with his employment, places him at a disadvantage
with his associates, and drives him into the company of others who feel
that the world is against them and that a life of crime is all there is
left to follow. It is not hard to see how men come to be "repeaters." It
is hard to understand when they do not.



The growing belief that crime comes largely from the subnormal has
created a more or less definite demand for the isolation of the moron
before the commission of crime and for the sterilization of certain
misfits, especially after conviction. Both of these methods are very
drastic, and while society must and will adopt any way that seems to be
necessary to protect itself, still before accepting such drastic
remedies it should be very clear that the danger is sufficiently great
to justify the means, that the desired result will follow and that no
other means will bring about the end.

In this discussion it should be remembered that the mental
classification of children and grown-ups is only in its infancy, that
much that is freely stated is still in the realm of theory, and that
time and patience in making investigations and classifying facts are
most important in arriving at correct results.

The really intelligent are as abnormal as the defective. The great
masses of men are rather mediocre, and those above and below are
exceptions. This depends on how broad is the class included in the
normal. There are no sharp divisions anywhere; above, the normal shades
imperceptibly into those of unusual intelligence, and below it fades
just as gradually into the sub-normal. While defectives are more apt to
commit crimes, in the main this is because their environment is too hard
for their machine.

The sub-normal are probably more tractable and less disposed to the
emotions that lead to criminal acts than are the more intelligent. Their
crimes are especially noticed because they seem to be without any
serious motive and often shockingly brutal. City life most readily
uncovers the sub-normal. This is true because the strain is far greater
in the city than the country. There are exceptions to this rule,
particularly those portions of the country that are barren and
unproductive territory into which the venturesome and obvious unfits are

The prisons are not the only places which are inhabited by the
sub-normal and the misfit. The hardest and most disagreeable and most
poorly paid labor is largely done by this class of people. Very few
people of superior intelligence and education do manual labor and the
more disagreeable the manual labor, the more certain it is that the job
is done by the sub-normal and the misfit. A large part of the farm
labor, the odd jobs and common labor in small towns, the cheaper labor
on railroads, in factories and all industrial plants is given to this
sort of men. In the country and small village, where life is easy, this
class seldom makes trouble and is hardly known. These men and women
easily and naturally fall into a place in the industry and society of
the village and are often among the most useful members.

A general examination of all men to discover the defective and the
sub-normal, coupled with a demand that all such be sent to some place of
confinement, would meet with such a protest from all classes seriously
affected as to end not only the demand but the further agitation of the
subject. Any such law, if carried out, would not only seriously increase
the cost of all industry, but in many instances would make it impossible
to carry it on. It is hardly conceivable that above the idiot, society
shall make examinations and tests and confine or sterilize large classes
of people who have not yet developed anti-social tendencies, but who on
account of feeble intellects might sometime commit crime.

The world has ample data at hand to show more humane and at the same
time much cheaper ways, even methods that will yield a profit. These
ways have been abundantly illustrated by history and can be witnessed in
operation every day.

England was repeatedly conquered and settled by brigands and misfits.
When her people grew more homogeneous and orderly she sent her
anti-social to New Zealand and to Virginia. In New Zealand with its
opportunities these outcasts and their descendants prospered and were as
orderly and conventional as the English society that banished them for
England's good. The colonies in Virginia with access to land and a
chance to make homes for themselves established a social order and
formed communities more prosperous than the ones that sent them out.
Many of their descendants are now successful and important members of
every western state.

In fact, most of the European immigrants who have settled in the United
States were the poor and the outcast, the misfits of European countries.
With better opportunities and a chance to build up homes in a new land,
their descendants are at least the equals of those who stayed behind.
The growth and development of the United States westward from the
Atlantic seaboard has been effected by the poorer and less intelligent,
but often the more venturesome, who constantly turned West to get
cheaper land and a better chance. The residents of these western states
compare very favorably with those who still reside in the sections of
the country which these pioneers left behind. It cannot be shown that
the less intelligent have criminal natures. All that can be shown is
that they have a poorer equipment to meet the stress and strain of
life. To make most of this class safe, all that is needed is fairer
conditions and an easier environment. If society could only recover from
the obsession that what is necessary to regulate man is plenty of
prisons and harder punishments, it would be fairly easy and infinitely
cheaper to improve the environment from which crime springs than to
visit vengeance on the victim.

The effect of education is very great. Many a subnormal and backward
person has been educated so he could take a place in life that those
with a much greater natural ability could not fill.

Beyond the segregation of the imbecile, the insane and those who have
committed crime, it is dangerous to go. The course of preventing crime
lies in the other direction, better opportunity and an easier life.

It has grown to be a commonplace in the discussion of crime to speak of
isolation and sterilization as the proper treatment of the criminal and
defective. This is generally done without any clear understanding of the
laws of heredity.

The laws of the transmission from parent to child of traits and
tendencies are not yet well enough known to justify any attempt to
interfere with the function of life, except in the case of the idiotic.
It is plain that crime cannot be inherited. Certain defects in the brain
and nervous system can be and are inherited. No brain or nervous system
is perfect, so the problem is one of the incapacity which causes the
maladjustment. Crime results from defective heredity when applied to the
environment. It comes from the inability of the machine to make the
necessary adjustments of life. The making of the criminal is largely a
question of his fortune or misfortune in the environment where he is
placed. It is absurd to say that one inherits the tendency to rob or
rape or burglarize or kill. He may inherit an unstable organization that
in certain hostile environments will lead him to any of these crimes.
For that matter all men inherit the organization that will bring these
results if the environment is sufficiently hard. Society may in many
ways place too high a value on human life. Still we punish men who place
too low a value on the lives of others, and the state should be very
slow to destroy life or the capacity for life.

There is much to learn, much to explain about the mysterious workings of
heredity, before man can undertake to say that he has the wisdom or
justice to choose the ones who should be the bearers of life to the

It is most common to find in the same family various degrees of
intelligence. Now and then a man of such high powers and faculties is
born that he is regarded by scientists as a "sport" who defies all
known laws in his origin. Often one person in a family is of commanding
strength, while the rest are commonplace.

The insanity and disease that afflict many men of genius is well known.
Grasset in his book _The Semi-Insane and the Semi-Responsible_ has given
a long list of eminent names. Many great authors have depicted insanity
in their most gifted characters. Genius is frequently an indication of
insanity. It is a wide departure from the normal.

The obscure and lowly origin of many of the world's greatest men seems
to point to the fact that Nature has methods that man cannot comprehend
and with which it is not wise for him to interfere. The fact is that
genius, or even great strength or ability in the parent, is by no means
sure to be handed down. In fact, it is very rare indeed that such
unusual traits persist. That sterilization should follow as a punishment
for sex crimes is without any sort of logic except that sterilization
relates to sex. The whole idea is born of the hatred or loathing of
certain crimes.

Generalizations have been made from a few poorly authenticated cases,
and these generalizations have gone far beyond anything that the
evidence can justify. It does not follow that because the father and son
have black hair, or the mother and daughter have blue eyes, or that
their mannerisms are similar, that inheritance is responsible for
character, much less for crime. Certain things are clearly traceable to
heredity. Other things may be the result of association or what to us
must still be accident.

Often the fact is pointed out that great progress has been made in the
culture of plants and the breeding of animals. This is true. No
intelligent farmer to-day would think of raising any but the best stock.
He takes pains with the breeding of his cattle. If he wants rich milk
and butter, he breeds Jerseys or Guernseys. If he wants a larger
quantity of milk and a fair beef animal, he breeds Holsteins. If he
wants beef only, perhaps he raises Durhams. At any rate he knows what he
wants and breeds that kind. Similarly the horse-raiser will breed for
race horses or dray horses as the case may be, and the system works with
almost mechanical certainty. He gets what he wants and would never think
of raising scrubs and taking a chance on results. The effect of
selective breeding and culture is beyond dispute, and to many it seems
obvious that all that is needed to perfect the human race and wipe out
misery and crime is to supervise human breeding in the same way, so that
the species may be controlled.

At first glance this seems to be the logical thing to do, especially as
the effects of heredity can no more be doubted in man than in animals.
Still there are important questions to be asked and grave dangers to be
encountered. When we say that the well-bred Berkshire hog is better than
the "razor-back," we mean that it will produce more meat for food. In
other words the hog is better for man. If we were to ask which would be
the better, if the hog were to be considered, the answer would probably
be the "razor-back." The fact that the food consumed by the Berkshire
produces a large quantity of fat, makes him unfitted to live if he were
living for his own sake. Turn both hogs out to run wild, and the
"razor-back" will live and the Berkshire die. Nature will make her
selection and adapt the hog to his environment. The Berkshire will
produce more lard, but it will not run so fast; it has no more brains
and cannot adapt what it has so well to the preservation of life. The
same thing is doubtless true of other animals and likewise of plant
life. The Jersey cow would not survive in a natural state. She gives too
much milk and for too long a time. Man has made of her a milk-machine.
Turn all thoroughbred horses out on the plains to shift for themselves,
and they would either die or gradually be modified until they were
adapted to the free and wild life of the plains. This would not be so
good for man, but would be better for the horses. In plants and animals,
man can by selection breed or cultivate any characteristics that he may
choose, but he cannot produce a horse which is both a draft horse and a
running horse; he cannot produce cattle that are the best both for milk
and beef. He is urged to try scientific breeding on the human race. How
would he have man changed? Would he experiment for more intellect, or a
bigger and stronger physique? Would he breed for art and civilization or
would he breed for strength and physical endurance? What qualities are
desirable for the human race? This would be a very hard question even to
entrust to a popular vote. While the capacity of cattle to produce milk
can be increased, cattle cannot increase their own capacity or improve
their own quality. This can be done only by the slow and patient
processes of Nature in the line of adapting the animal to its
environment. The rapid change that is to come about by breeding must be
directed and controlled by man. The cattle have nothing to say about the
process. No doubt a higher order of beings who could control man might,
and perhaps would change him by selective mating. How they would change
him would depend on the use they wished to make of him, not on what the
man himself would like to do. The contemplation of a higher order of
beings experimenting with the human race is not a pleasant one for
intelligent men.

Can we imagine men, through government, forcibly experimenting with each
other? Who would settle the kind of man that was to be evolved or the
specific changes that would be required? Or, what was to be done and
how? Who could prophesy what man would be like when he should be made
over in the likeness of something else? Who are the people with the
breadth and tolerance and infinite wisdom, in whose hands it would be
safe to place the remodeling of man? It is hard to conceive that it can
be seriously considered.

Nature in her own way is a eugenist. By her slow processes she is
continually wiping out the unfit and adapting man to the environment
where he must live. Perhaps by saving too many of the unfit man is more
or less interfering with the processes of Nature, and it may be that the
interference with her method of work is bad. But Nature is mindful of
this tendency and if it is not in accordance with the profoundest laws
of being, Nature will have her way in spite of man's meddling. Any
change that can be brought about by selective mating must come by
natural processes aided by the education of each individual through a
closer study of the origin and evolution of life. This must leave
everyone free to do his own selecting, rather than to trust it to the
state. Society can do much toward giving man an environment which will
more or less be adjusted to his heredity. To give him a heredity that
will conform to his environment is quite another thing and probably must
be kept practically free from the theories, vagaries and experiments of
man. It would seem so absurd and dangerous as not to be worth discussing
except for the fact that the movement, both for sterilizing and some
degree of control of mating has already gone far in some of the states.
There is no limit that fanaticism or hatred will respect.

No doubt the popular opinion that in some way crime and pauperism are
inherited has been strengthened by the literature concerning the family
that has been given the name of "The Jukes." The first extensive study
of this family was made by Richard L. Dugdale, who was connected with
the New York Prison Association. It was first published in 1877 and may
almost be regarded as the "Uncle Tom's Cabin" of the scientific study of
crime in America.

Mr. Dugdale was evidently a careful student, an honest investigator and
a humane man. Strange to say, deductions have been freely and carelessly
made from his book, which the investigations do not warrant, and against
which he carefully cautioned the reader. No one can examine Mr.
Dugdale's book without being impressed with the quiet unassuming modesty
and worth of the author, and yet in the hands of those who have so often
carelessly and unscientifically generalized from his studies, it has
possibly brought more harm than good.

The book covers investigations made by Dugdale between 1850 and 1870, a
period in which little was known about the laws that govern inheritance,
and necessarily, much evidence was pure hearsay without the data of
careful investigation at hand. The case, however, does show a surprising
number of criminals, paupers, harlots and misfits, descending from their
original ancestor. From time to time further investigation has brought
the history of the family down to 1918.

The ancestor with whom the investigation begins was born some time
between 1720 and 1740. In the report the original is called "Max." He
has been described as a "hunter and fisher," "a hard drinker," "not fond
of work," fairly intelligent and leaving no record of crime. He probably
left behind a large family, some of whom were legitimate and some
illegitimate. The family came from a barren, rocky, lake region in New
York and several generations grew up in the vicinity. The only industry
was rough work like quarrying stone, logging and the like. Later a
manufacturing plant was located in the region. The Jukes early got a bad
name in the small community. Even when they wanted to find employment it
was hard to get a job. They were socially ostracized and individually
boycotted. The region was poor, and for the most part the family grew up
in poverty. Often several members of a family lived in one room and
slept on the floor indiscriminately, regardless of sex. For several
generations few of them wandered far from the ancestral home. The
locality was one that naturally came to be the resort of the poor and
the outcast; these are always driven to the cheapest and most barren
land. Whether the community was related by blood or not, the residents
would almost inevitably be of the same class. Rich people cluster
closely together for association and fellowship. The poor and wretched
do the same. Common observation in city and country shows that this is
inevitable. It comes from deeper and more fundamental laws than human
statutes. It is born of the gregarious instinct and fostered and
developed by economic law.

In the main, lax habits grow from surroundings and association. The
tendency of all human beings is to revert to the primal. It is only
association that keeps the individual units up to the tension that
civilization expects and demands. Every community shows many examples of
this inevitable tendency. Nature is constant; civilization spasmodic.
Especially with sex relations, conditions are the chief factor. Nature
knows little or nothing of the regulations fixed by society and custom.
Poverty and wretchedness reach outward through a community and by
association between the old and the young pass down the generations.
Nothing but a complete change of environment can counteract the
inevitable tendency. When social classes arise and the cleavage is clear
and established, no great effort is made by the superior members to aid
the inferior. In fact they are almost invariably left to themselves.
Poverty and wretchedness are not transmitted in the blood, but in the

It is not many years since physicians and communities believed that
tuberculosis was inherited. In all communities there were instances of
this dread disease spreading out through families and down the
generations. It required the sacrifice of many lives and the careful
investigation of scientists to discover that tuberculosis was the result
of germs, generally accompanied by an impoverished system. These germs
were transferred by close association and lack of sanitary conditions.
It is as easy to transmit shiftlessness, idleness and lax habits as

Dugdale's figures of delinquency in the Jukes family are doubtless much
too high. A large percentage of facts was gained from gossip and hearsay
about those long since dead. The details show that many crimes charged
were not even proved, others were evidently not crimes, and in any small
community suspicion would rest upon a member of this family who was
accused. Then too, the poor in court and out have a hard time defending
themselves. They are frequently convicted when accused. The evidence in
regard to the subnormal and defective is still less satisfactory.
Without close examination and thorough tests, illiteracy generally
passes as subnormality. Very few of the subjects were submitted to a
careful test. It is at least probable that this family was not much
different from the other families who lived in like circumstances in the

Dugdale's original examination covered 709 cases out of about 1200 that
were supposed to be living at the time. Of this number, 180 are put down
as having received institutional and outdoor relief. The criminals and
offenders are put down at 140. Habitual thieves convicted and
unconvicted are listed at 60. Common prostitutes are put down at 50.

After Dugdale's investigation the family, from industrial and other
conditions, became scattered and spread out over many states. A record
has lately been made of the descendants of this family, the later record
showing much improvement in the stock. This must be due to environment.
It seems fairly certain that with time and opportunity, it will not much
longer be a marked family.

Quite aside from the history, it seems certain that no results such as
shown by Dugdale could have followed from inheritance. Defectiveness is
a recessive factor; normality a dominant one. If such were not true,
this would be a world of feeble-minded. If the Mendelian law held good
in this regard, from a union of a defective and a normal person, three
out of four would be normal, but as a matter of fact, the percentage of
normal is no doubt much greater. It is only when both father and mother
are feeble-minded that feeble-mindedness is sure to show in the
offspring. With the modern care of this sort of defectives, the chance
of breeding is growing rapidly less.

The Kallikak family is cited as another illustration showing the
possible inheritance of criminality and poverty through a defective
strain. This family, so far as shown, makes it still clearer that what
some authors have charged to heredity is simply due to environment.
These investigations do not show the need of controlling birth but do
prove the necessity of improving environment. It is not possible to
speak with certainty as to heredity and environment. The thorough
investigation of these two factors which make up life is still in its
infancy, but scientists are working out the problem, and we may be
confident that with the right attitude toward crime, a remedy will be
found for such cases as result from environment.



The criminologist has always looked for the cause of crime in some other
direction than in the inherent wickedness of the criminal. Only those
who make and enforce the law believe that men commit crimes because they
choose the wrong.

Different writers have made their catalogues of causes that are
responsible for crime, and most of these lists are more or less correct.
There can be no doubt that more crimes against property are committed in
cold weather than in warm weather; more in hard times than in good
times; more by the unemployed than the employed; more during strikes and
lockouts than in times of industrial peace; more when food is expensive
and scarce than when it is cheap and plenty; more, in short, when it is
harder to live. There is no doubt that there are more crimes of violence
in extreme hot weather than in cold weather. That is, heat affects
crimes as it affects disease and insanity and death; in short, as it
affects all life. More crimes of violence are committed after wars or
during heated political campaigns than at other times; more of such
crimes when, either by climatic or other conditions, feelings are
intensified or aroused and less subject to control. Likewise there are
more crimes committed by young men between seventeen and twenty four or
five years of age than at any other age. Neither the very young nor the
old commit crimes, except in rare cases. All the old people could be
safely dismissed from prisons. Some few of the senile would need
attention, and many need support and care, but none is dangerous to the
community. There can be no question that practically all criminals are
poor. Even when bankers get into prison they almost never have much
money when they start that way, and none when they arrive. They are sent
for something that would not have happened except for financial
disaster. There is no longer any question that a large number, say
probably from ten to twenty per cent of the convicted are, in fact,
insane at the time the act was committed, and that the demented, the
imbecile, and the clearly subnormal constitute many more than half of
the inmates of prisons. Most of the rest can be accounted for by
defective nervous systems, excessively strong instincts in some
directions, weak ones in another, or a very hard environment. Add to
this the facts that only a few have ever had any education worthy of the
name, that most of them have never been trained to make a fair living by
any trade or occupation, that almost all have had a poor early
environment with no chance from the first, and most of them have had a
very imperfect heredity. In short, sufficient statistics have been
gathered and enough is known to warrant the belief that every case of
crime could be accounted for on purely scientific grounds if all the
facts bearing on the case were known.

Is there anything unreasonable in all of this? Is it outside of the
other manifestations of life? Let us take disease. Clearly this is
affected by heat and cold; beyond question it is largely the result of
inherited susceptibilities. Poverty or wealth has much to do with
disease. Many poor people die of tuberculosis, for instance, where the
well-to-do would live. The span of life of the rich is greater than that
of the poor. The long list of diseases from under-nourishment is mainly
from the poor. Age affects disease, increasing the hazard of death. The
food supply seriously affects health. Ignorance is a prolific cause of
disease. Or, to speak more correctly, the lack of education and
knowledge prevents men from living so that sickness will not overtake
them, or so that they can recover when they are attacked by disease. The
strength or weakness of the nervous system is a material factor.

The times of life, too, when the ravages of disease are greatest are as
distinct as those of crime. And barring the fact that the few who are
left at seventy rapidly drop away, the time of the greatest disasters
would rather closely correspond with that of crime. Tuberculosis and
insanity, for instance, take their greatest toll in the period of
adolescence between fifteen and twenty-five years, just as crime does,
and the percentage of both begins falling off rapidly after thirty.

Accidents can be as surely classified, and many of them in the same way.
The poor naturally have more accidents than the rich; the ignorant more
than the educated; the poorly-fed more than the well-nourished.
Accidents are directly affected by climatic conditions; they are
affected by human temperaments, by the strength and weakness of the
nervous system, by the environment, by heredity, and by all the manifold
stimuli that act on the human machine.

Legislatures have long since recognized that crime does not really stand
as a separate and isolated phenomenon in human life. They have long
since passed laws to safeguard the community against loss by accident
and disease. A lengthening list of statutes can be found in our code
regulating dangerous machinery, the operation of railroads, the running
of automobiles, the construction of buildings, the isolation of the
tubercular and those suffering from other contagious diseases, the
amount of air-space for each person in tenement and work-shop, the use
of fire-escapes and all of man's conduct and activity for the
prevention of accidents and disease.

Quite apart from the question of the wisdom or the foolishness of all
this line of legislative activity, over which there will always be
serious discussion, it is evident that criminal conduct even now
occupies no unique or isolated place in law or human conduct. All
unconsciously the world is coming to look on all sorts of conduct either
as social or anti-social, and this regardless of what has already been
classified as criminal. A few years since science was absorbed in the
study of man's racial origin and development. Today, biology and allied
sciences are devoted to unraveling the complex causes responsible for
individual development. It is fair to presume that this new effort of
science may be able in time to solve the problem of crime, and that it
may do for the conduct and mental aberrations of man what it has already
done for his physical diseases.



Accident and luck may seem to have no place in a world of law, and yet
the fate of lives rests almost entirely on what can be better classified
under this head than any other.

This is a pluralistic universe. The world is made up of an infinite
number of independent machines, each having its own existence and
controlled by the laws of its own being. In going its several ways and
living its own life, inevitably it often clashes with others and is
seriously affected by them. The fox and the rabbit both roam the woods,
apparently at will, at least independently of each other. By an infinite
number of circumstances, at a particular time and place, their paths
cross and the fox devours the rabbit. Had they not met at the time and
place, the fate of the rabbit would not have been the same. The fox
would have traveled farther and eaten another rabbit or some other
animal in its stead.

An engine is running on a railroad track. It makes the trip day after
day without accident or disaster. An automobile is one of a million
built in a far off city. Its mechanism is marvelous, and each part is
dependent on the rest for its normal functioning. Some vital piece of
the machine contains a flaw. How it chanced to be imperfect is another
story involving endless speculation. An inherent natural defect in the
ore, or a tired workman anywhere from the original smelting place to the
last hand that touched it, may have been the cause; or, the reason may
be still more impossible to discover. The machine is purchased and does
its work perfectly for months. It is driven thousands of miles without
any mishap. It is propelled along the highway and reaches the railroad
track over which the engine runs. It is filled with happy people
enjoying a vacation. The automobile and the engine reach the crossing at
almost the same time. The automobile driver sees the engine and applies
the brakes. For the first time since it left the shop, the machinery
does not work. The car forges ahead and reaches the tracks just in time
to be struck by the engine. The merry party meets disaster. No power
could foresee the catastrophe, nor provide against the death that must
result. Inevitably comes the clash of independent machines. Each human
being is a separate machine. Along the road of life he meets countless
others like himself. Some chance meetings are fortunate and help the
journey. Some other chance meeting with a human machine, a mechanical
device, an infinitesimal microbe that happened to be at the same place
at the same time brings disaster or death. This is luck or chance or
fate, and this really hovers over every life, controlling its course and
destiny and deciding when the puppet shall be laid away!

Luck and chance are the chief of all factors that really affect man.
From birth to death the human machine is called on to make endless
adjustments. A child is born and starts down the road of life. He starts
blindly and, for the most part, travels the whole way in the mists and
clouds. On his pathway he meets an infinite number of other pilgrims
going blindly like himself. From the beginning to the end, all about him
and in front of him are snares and pitfalls. His brain and nervous
system are filled with emotions and desires which lure him here and
there. Temptations are beckoning and passions urging him. He has no
guide to show the way and no compass to direct his course. He knows that
the journey will bring him to disaster in the end. He does not know the
time or the nature of the last catastrophe he shall meet. Every step is
taken in doubt and pain and fear. His friends and companions, through
accident or disease, drop around him day by day. He cannot go back or
halt or wait. He must go forward to the bitter end.

The whole journey of life is largely a question of luck. Let anyone ask
himself the question how often he has escaped disaster or how often
death has just passed him by. How often has he done some act that would
have led to degradation had it been known? How many hair-breadth escapes
has he met? How many accidents has he had which luckily were slight but
which easily might have caused his destruction?

Chance is the great element in life. Two men invest money; one gains a
fortune, the other loses all. Two men are riding in a machine and it
goes over a cliff; one is killed, the other escapes. The deadly germ is
taken by one, it passes the other by; or, it is taken by one when his
health will make him immune, by another at the time that it will destroy
his life. How many temptations to violate the law has one just missed by
a lucky accident? How many times has a previous experience, education,
or a friend at the right time saved him from destruction?

The imperfect man travels this road; he is poor and friendless; his life
is a long series of accidents great and small. The first accident that
weakens his structure makes the second more certain and so on in
increasing ratio until the end. Good luck crowds around one life, while
ill luck and disaster follow another's footsteps wherever he goes with
the persistency of his shadow.

In all the infinite number of chances one false step may be enough to
bring final disaster. All depends on the nature of the step. Every
pilgrim makes innumerable false steps; often luck alone saves the
situation; often luck alone compasses the destruction.

Insurance companies know just when accidents will befall the insured. If
a man lives long enough he will die from a mischance. In a thousand men,
a certain number will meet accident in a given time. It is just the same
whether the insurance is written to be payable when a leg is cut off by
a train or when money is embezzled from an employer. In either event the
time can be figured out, and inevitably it will come if the time is long

Neither is it necessary that the bad luck shall be great at the first
misfortune. It may be but the loss of a few dollars which another could
easily stand. It may be only a few days of sickness which would be of no
consequence to someone else. It may be the death of a father or an
uncle, while the same sort of tragedy might be the source of another's
wealth. It may be some other person's hard luck which takes him from
school and leaves him to follow a life of hard and constant toil. It may
be that he had the bad luck not to marry the person of his choice, or it
may be that he had the bad luck to marry her. It may be because he had
no children; it may be because he had too many. It may well be that he
has been saved from prison by dying early of tuberculosis. He may have
been saved from a railroad wreck by going to jail. Infinite are the
tricks of chance. Infinite are the combinations and consequences that
may come from turning the cards in a single deck.

Who is the perfect one that should be willing to punish vengefully his
fellow-man? Let one look honestly into his own life and pick out the
important things that lead to fortune or disaster from birth onward, and
say how many are the results of circumstances over which he had no

Where is the human being, in the presence of a dead child or a dead
parent or a dead friend or in the presence of a terrible trouble, that
has not sat down in sorrow and despair and again and again lived over
every circumstance that led to the disaster, asking why he did not turn
this way instead of that way? Why did he not stop here, or go there; why
did he do this or why did he not do that? Why did he not take this short
step? Why did he not think of this or think of that? If only any one of
almost an infinite number of things had been done or left undone, the
dead would be alive or the disaster would not have befallen. Every man
who is honest with himself knows that he has been a creature of
conditions and chance, or at least what is chance as far as a man can
see, and what was clearly chance to him. He knows that if he has met
success, he has only been more in luck than the rest. If he has
intelligence and human sympathy, he feels only pity for the suffering.
He would never punish in vengeance or hatred. He knows that all do the
best they can, with what they have.

Enumerating some of the many causes of crime ought to be an unnecessary
task. To give the number of ways men die or are killed by accident,
means only that sooner or later they die, and if they had not died one
way, they would have died another. It means only that a machine will
inevitably give way in some part, and man may go on finding the weak
spots and strengthening them forever and still the end will come. Fate
does not look for a weak spot; it looks for the weakest and finds it.

Manifold causes produce crime; some men commit it from one cause: some
from another. Statistics only show the number of men who commit crime
from the various separate causes. In logic and philosophy it really
shows that, a certain heredity placed in a certain environment, will
meet obstructions and obstacles. Some heredities will carry men further,
and some environments will overcome them more quickly; but as surely as
effects follow from causes, every heredity will meet disaster in some
way under any environment, and the time and kind of disaster it meets
depend not upon perverseness or freedom of will, but upon the fortune of
the meeting of heredity with the manifold environment that surrounds
every life. It must be plain that life lasts only as long as it makes
adjustments. That it consists only of adjustments. That, ordinarily,
strong heredity and a good environment will serve the longest. That,
generally, a weak heredity and a poor environment will meet disaster
soonest. Life may be lengthened either by improving the heredity or the
environment or both. Whatever catastrophe overtakes it and the time it
falls depend not upon the will of the machine, but upon the character of
the machine that starts on the journey and the road it travels. The
disasters cannot in reason or justice be divided into criminal or
non-criminal. They are all natural; they are each and all inevitable.
Each is the inevitable destruction of a machine which could stand so
much, but which could stand no more. And in each, in spite of both
heredity and the general environment, the constant meeting with other
machines due to pure luck and chance is a great factor, if not the chief
factor, that determines the individual life.



It has always been the province of the Chief Executive of a state or
nation to grant pardons or clemency to those who are confined in prison.
This is largely to correct the mistakes of courts and juries and is
often indulged in by presidents and governors at Christmas time.
Experience shows that during the trial of a case, especially one that
causes public notice and general discussion, injustice is frequently
done. Often the defendant is convicted when he should have been
acquitted, and still more frequently punishments are excessive and
cruel. Almost never is any serious inquiry made as to the heredity and
environment of the accused. Probably trial by jury has served to save
many defendants where the judge would have convicted, and has still more
often tempered and modified penalties. Still, juries are by no means
free from the mob psychology that surrounds and affects most important
and well-known cases. Jurors are generally none too intelligent and not
very ready to stand against public opinion. Most men agree with the
crowd. The prevailing religious opinion and the dominant political and
social ideas are accepted and believed by the ordinary citizen. Social
and business considerations cause most men to go with the crowd, and in
any case of importance it is easy for a jury to tell the feeling of the
populace. If the case has attracted much attention, the juror knows the
prevailing ideas as to the guilt or innocence of the defendant. When he
takes his seat in the box he almost always shares that feeling. If the
case is not one he has heard of or discussed, he can easily tell by the
actions and surroundings of the court room how public feeling lies. All
lawyers know how readily men feel the sentiment of a court room and how
much easier is the task when the sentiment is their way. Juries are also
apt to have an undue regard for the opinion of the judge. In spite of
the fact that it is their province to pass upon the facts, they are very
watchful of all the judge says and does and are prone to decide a case
as they believe the judge wishes it to be decided. Even when the judge
is not permitted to express any opinions on the facts involved, it is
difficult for him to hide his real feelings, and when his desire is
strong for either side it is easy to make his opinions known.

A jury is more apt to be unbiased and independent than a court, but they
very seldom stand up against strong public clamor. Judges naturally
believe the defendant is guilty. They feel that the fact that an
indictment has been found is a strong presumption against the accused.
The judge regards himself as a part of the administration of justice and
feels that it is a part of his duty to see that no guilty man escapes.
Generally, in the administration of the court he is very closely
connected with the state's attorney and naturally believes that the
attorney would not have procured an indictment, much less pushed a
trial, unless the defendant was guilty.

The whole atmosphere of the court at the time of the trial calls for a
harsher and more drastic dealing with a defendant than would naturally
prevail after the feeling has passed away. For this reason, the
pardoning power is given to the chief executive to correct errors or
undue harshness after the legal proceedings have been finished. Often
after months or years, the persons or family who have suffered at the
hands of the defendant feel like reversing their judgment or extending
charity, and it is not unusual that the prosecutor and judge who
conducted the case ask for leniency and a mitigation of the sentence is
imposed. So often is an appeal made and so frequently is it felt just to
grant clemency, that this part of the duty of the chief executive has
grown to be very burdensome and really impossible for him thoroughly to
perform. The policy of the law is further to give a prisoner some
consideration and in cases of good behavior and mitigating circumstances
to release him before the expiration of his time. In most states this
has called for the creating of a board of pardons and parole. The
statutes fixing penalties for certain offenses provide for a reduction
of a certain number of weeks or months each year, but as a rule courts
take this provision into consideration and figure out the net time they
wish to give the defendant so that there is no clemency except through
pardon or parole.

In most states the duties of the board are very grave and its business
large. With this has generally gone a law providing for the release of
prisoners on parole before their sentences are finished. In these cases
the prisoner is paroled to someone who promises the board to employ him,
and a monthly report is to be made of his conduct for a stated length of
time. He is then given conditional freedom, subject to the revocation of
the parole by the board on the violation of its terms.

The administration of this power has made the parole board one of the
most important, if not the most important, of any branch of the state
government. The lives and well-being of thousands of prisoners are
absolutely dependent on this board. Even more important are the
happiness and well-being of the families of the inmates of the prison.
The power and responsibilities of this board are so great that only men
of the best judgment and of humane and just tendencies should be trusted
with the task. It also calls for great courage such as few men on
boards possess. The public generally clamors for vengeance and unfairly
and unjustly criticises the board, especially when a released man
violates his parole or commits another crime. This frequently happens.
Perhaps on an average ten per cent of those paroled are sent back to
prison before their term expires. All this makes it hard for the board
to perform its duties, and makes the members of the board timid and
doubtful of the result, often causing them to deny paroles in many cases
where they should be given.

A great deal of criticism has been made of the parole system. Public
officials and that part of the crowd that is clamorous for vengeance are
always ready to assail its activities unfairly and unduly. Most
professional criminals are against the parole board. Speaking of the
State of Illinois, I am sure that the parole law, instead of shortening
the time of imprisonment, has lengthened the terms. All lawyers in any
way competent to handle the defense of a criminal case would, in the
event of conviction, almost always get a shorter term for their clients
from a jury or from the court, or even from the prosecutor, than from
the parole board. I feel strongly that the board is too timid and
unwilling to grant paroles. Still in spite of this there can be no doubt

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