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Upon thy brow the snow-flake found a home
|ject of eulogy for some of the wisest men who Pure as itself, and even more chastely fair;
have ever lived, it is becoming to examine the Morn came and looked upon thy cheek's rich bloom,
question with candor and deliberation. Let us Melting to white, and died of envy there.
look a little then at the usual course of proceeding His pearls old Ocean brought to form thy teeth; in the trial of a criminal case, where the subject His coral for thy lips ; and Earth bestowed
of insanity is involved. The prisoner at the bar Her south wind from the spice isles for thy breath,
is charged with murder. Evidence has been adThat forth in tones of melting sweetness flowed.
duced sufficient to show that it was his hand which The star-queen, seeking an immortal home,
gave the fatal blow. Unless the contrary can be More beautiful than aught above the skies,
proved, the malice necessary to make him guilty of In orbs where intellect of angels shone,
the crime will be presumed. The plea of insanity Seated her living glory in thine eyes.
is put in, and witnesses are examined to establish All this and more, divinest one, art thou
the fact. The jury is composed of honest and Thy silken tresses float upon the air,
respectable men, who are actuated by the most And wanton o'er the marble of thy brow,
praiseworthy desire of performing their duty. They As 'lwere Elysium to be prisoners there.
are men of good, plain, common sense; are indusThy neck is white as thine own purity;
trious, and in every way qualified to fill their seveThy queenly figure, faultless in its grace ;
ral stations in society. They could answer, withNought but thyself can be compared to thee, out the slightest hesitation, any question relating To tell the heavenly wonders of thy face.
to the every day business of life. But now they Long live thy beauty-and when time must be,
are placed in new and trying circumstances. The That from yon skies thy starry soul shall beam, life of a fellow being is at stake. It is in their May still the living memory of thee
power either to restore him to his family, or to conO'er every generous spirit reign supreme.
sign him to the hands of the executioner. Of their decision they must give account in the day of final retribution. They are called upon to pierce through
the outward acts into the hidden recesses of the THE PLEA OF INSANITY IN CRIMINAL CASES, heart, to note the thoughts and feelings of the pri
soner, lo take into account his eccentricities and BY FORBES WINSLOW, Esq.
caprices, to estimate the probable effects of a cerMEMBER OF THE ROYAL COLLEGE OF SURGEONS, LONDON.
tain hallucination or delusion, and after the conside
ration of all these circumstances, to pronounce upon The above is the title of a work, which was his moral responsibility. They perceive the diffisent forth, in December last, by the enterprising culties of the case, and also the necessity of compublisher of the Law Library. It is one of the ing to some conclusion. They are perplexed, they few books of real merit to be found among the num- hesitate, they feel incompetent to the task. Medical berless trashy publications which now deluge our gentlemen are called into court, and are examined land like another Egyptian plague of locusts. as to the nature of insanity in general, and their
The plea of insanity in criminal cases has be- opinion of this case in particular. They are quescome so common in our courts of law, that its bare tioned and cross questioned, by gentlemen of the mention excites a smile. This does not arise from bar, who have, perhaps, just enough acquaintance an impression that the plea is an altogether ground- with medical jurisprudence, to enable them to ask less one, for the fact of its universality proves that questions which no man can answer. The medithere is in behalf of the unfortunate class a general cal men will probably decline giving a positive opisympathy, to which counsel have found il conve- nion upon many points. The judge then delivers nient to appeal. But this universality shows also his charge, which is made up of the sometimes that, in any case which will admit the shadow of contradictory opinions of all the distinguished lawa presumption of insanity, the plea may be offered yers who have preceded him. The case then with some chance of success. Unless we suppose, rests with the jury. The jurymen put together then, the great body of criminals to be insane, the legal tests which have been given them by the there must be a fault somewhere. It would be a judge, the arguments of the lawyers, the opinions most unjust and uncharitable imputation to charge of the physicians, and their own confused ideas of a want of integrity, or a neglect of duty, upon our the case, and are more at a loss than before. They judges or jurymen ; it follows therefore, that this are afraid to pronounce the prisoner innocent, and fault must be in the mode of trial.
they are not sure he is guilty. The judge told It is a well seuled and judicious rule, which them, that if, after mature deliberation, they had a throws the burden of proof upon the objector to an reasonable doubt, they must throw it in favor of established institution. Before pronouncing faulty the prisoner. They have doubts, they cannot know a mode of trial, which has come down from the that the prisoner was of soundcmind at the time highest antiquity, and which has furnished a sub-'of the commission of the act, they do not know
that he committed the act with malicious intent;/ were made to bring forward such evidence, in supthey must, therefore, either bring in no verdict at port of any case requiring for its elucidation a all, or else one of not guilty.
knowledge of either mechanics or law, the counsel If this be a fair statement, it is not difficult to would expose himself to the laughter of the court; understand, without impugning the motives of judge yet medical knowledge is thought to come by inor jury, how so many infamous characters are turn- tuition; the jury, not one of whom may have seen ed loose upon society, whom public opinion has a case of insanity, or have given the subject a moalmost unanimously pronounced worthy of death. ment's consideration, are called upon to decide Nor is it surprising, that the plea of insanity should whether the mind, in a particular case, is suffirank, in vulgar estimation, on a par with an alibi. ciently well balanced to enable its possessor to form It is, I acknowledge, much easier to point out de- an accurate judgment between right and wrong; fects in an established system, than to devise a bet- or, in other words, whether a person alleged to be ter. And even supposing a substitute to be pro-insane ought to be viewed as a responsible agent." posed, which promises to be free from some of But the main object of the work is not to find fault these defects, it is still a serious question, whether with the present mode of trial, or to propose a betthese improvements be sufficiently great to counter, but simply, taking matters as they stand, to terbalance the loss of that veneration for old and furnish, in as small a compass as possible, to those time-honored institutions, which seems an inherent who are called upon to adjudicate in criminal cases, principle of human nature. It is certainly a mat- a correct notion of the law in relation to the plea ter of no little consequence, in a country so new of insanity, and to enable them to form an accurate as ours, and among a people so prone to innovation, judgment of the presence of insanity in any case in a land where the most important revolutions may in which it is said to exist. be effected by the popular will, as it were, in the Mental insanity is either partial, or total. With twinkling of an eye, to cherish this feeling of rere. regard to the irresponsibility of persons totally inrence for the institutions of our forefathers and thus sane, there has never been a question. With reto oppose some barrier to the spirit of perpetual gard to partial insanity, there are almost as many change. But there are a few facts connected with different opinions as there are individuals. Lord this subject which must not be left out of view. Coke held that nothing but a total absence of un
1. The people can at any time they may deem derstanding and memory can excuse a person, proper make any change in the present system of while some of the medical writers of the present jurisprudence.
day, think the infliction of punishment cannot be 2. Public opinion seems to be, that there are justified in any case, where insanity is established defects in the mode of trial in criminal cases, in the slightest degree. Dr. Winslow takes a mewhich call for remedy.
dium ground. 3. Some change may then be expected before “I am not prepared,” he says, " to give an unthe lapse of many years.
qualified adherence to the doctrine, that the pre4. In order, that when the time shall come, leg- sence of a disordered mind ought invariably to islators may act in an intelligent manner, and in shield a person from responsibility ; for there are accordance with the wishes of their constituents, many cases of insanity, in which the patient apit is expedient that different schemes be laid before pears to be perfectly competent to form a correct the public, and their merits fully discussed. process of reasoning, is aware of his legal irre
With regard to the plan suggested by Dr. Wins- sponsibility, and knows the distinctions between low, for the establishment of a separate jurisdic- right and wrong.” tion, presided over by persons whose attention has “An intriguing, unruly, vicious madman, was been specially directed to the study of mental ab- detected with a piece of iron which he had conerration, it would be impossible to form an opinion, trived to shape like a dagger; into this iron he without a more particular account of the whole fixed a handle. The weapon was firmly taken away system. It is much to be regretted, that the au- from him. He immediately became excessively thor has not entered more into detail upon this abusive, and he was placed under restraint. After point. Whatever may be thought of the practi- this he was more violent, and uttered the most recability of his scheme, there can be no doubt of the volting imprecations. In a fit of fury he exclaimpropriety of having judges as thoroughly acquaint-ed to the keeper, 'rll murder you yet! I am a ed as may be with the subject upon which they madman and they cannot hang me for it.'" are to adjudicate.
“When Martin set fire to York-Minster, a con"No man,” says Dr. Winslow, is considered versation took place among the inmates of a neighcompetent to give an opinion on a complicated ques- boring mad-house relating to the circomstance. tion of mechanics, who has not paid some atten- The question discussed was, whether Martin would tion to the science; neither would the evidence of suffer the extreme penalty of the law for the crime. the first physician or surgeon in Europe be of any Various were the opinions expressed. In the value on an intricate point of law. If an attempt'midst of the conversation, one patient, apparently
as mad as the rest, exclaimed — He (Martin) will that fact, although to all other intents and purposes not be hanged-of course he will escape.' 'For he was sane ; answering, reasoning, and acting what reason ? asked several voices. They can- as men, not in any manner tainted with insanity, not hang him,' replied the lunatic, because he is converse and reason, and conduct themselves; mad, he is one of ourselves.'
suppose further, that he believed the man whom “I would not, however, pronounce a hasty or lie destroyed, but whom he destroyed as a potter's inconsiderate judgment in cases of this character. vessel, to be the property of another; and that he We know so little of the workings of the human had malice against such supposed person, and that mind, either in its healthy or morbid states, that it he meant to injure him, knowing the act he was is a point of great difficulty ; in fact, almost an im- committing to be malicious and injurious; and that, possibility to detect the line of demarkation between in short, he had full knowledge of all principles of responsibility and irresponsibility, or where one com- good and evil; yet, would it be possible to convict mences and the other terminates. This is a sub- such a person of murder, if, from the influence of ject, however, which requires more consideration his disease, he was ignorant of the relation in which than medical jurists have hitherto given to it.” he stood to the man he had destroyed, and was
It has long been attempted to fix upon some ac- utterly unconscious that he had struck at the life curate test, to which all cases of alleged insanity of a human being ?" may be brought, and the question of responsibility So long as the present method of trial continues, determined. Dr. Winslow doubts the propriety of it must be important that judicial decisions be regusuch attempts.
lated by some general rules, in order that the ad“ The judges of the land," he remarks, " appear ministration of justice be uniform, and not forever to have no settled or clear views on the subject of subject to change according to the views of individinsanity. This may in a great measure arise from uals. The proposed tests seem to be coming more their attempting to define insanity. The disease and more complete; may it not be hoped then, notdoes not admit of being defined. It is not in the withstanding the skepticism of Dr. Winslow and power of any human being to embody within the others, that some general principles will be fixed limits of a definition all the peculiar and character. upon, which may be applied to all cases ? istic symptoms of mental derangement. The
There are many subjects of interest suggested malady assumes so many forms, and exhibits itself by the perusal of this part of our author's treatise, in such Protean shapes, that it is out of our power upon which it would be pleasant and profitable to 10 give any thing bearing the semblance of a cor- dwell
, but the limits of this article prevent. There rect or safe definition of the disorder—a definition is another species of insanity, to which Dr. Winsthat could be referred to as a standard in doubtful low invites the particular attention of the reader, cases of deranged mind. If it be difficult to em- and which is well worthy of such attention. I brace within the bounds of one sentence any thing
mean moral insanity. like a true description of the symptoms of general
The term, moral insanity, is used to express a mental aberration, a fortiori, how abortive must be
a disease, which has, for a few years past, engaged the attempt to lay down any rule by which we are to test in any particular case the presence or ab
the attention of writers upon medical jurisprudence. sence of moral responsibility."
The peculiar features which distinguish this from The general principle upon which courts of jus
other forms of mania, have never been very accutice seem to have acted in this country and in En- rately determined. Some persons are altogether gland, is, that a person who is capable of distin. skeptical with regard to the existence of such a guishing right from wrong—of knowing that the disease and contend that it differs, in no wise, from crime of which he may stand accused is an offence mere moral depravity. It has received some counagainst the laws of God and nature, is a responsible tenance in the courts of France, but has not, that agent. It must be admitted that these are not
I am aware, been recognized in those of England perfect tests in all cases of alleged insanity. Take or America. Dr. Winslow speaks of it as "a for example the hypothetical case proposed by Lord disordered condition of the moral affections and Erskine in his speech on the trial of Hadfield, for propensities, unaccompanied by any delusion of
the intellectual powers.
In these cases," he firing upon George the Third.
" Let us suppose,” says his Lordship, “ the cha. continues, "the person manifests no mental deluracter of an insane delusion consists in the belief sion; is not monomaniacal; has no hallucination ;
does not confound fancies with realities; but simthat some given person was any brute animal or an inanimate being, (and such cases have existed,) anů ply labors under a morbid state of the feelings and that opon the trial of such a lunatic for murder,
affections, or, in other words, a diseased volition.
The intellectual faculties are apparently sound; you being upon your oaths convinced, upon the ancontradicted evidence of one hundred persons, that
the person often exhibits superior mental capacity, he believed the man he had destroyed to be a pot: ship, performs all the duties of life with praise
reasons ably, is conscious of his moral relationter's vessel : that it was quite impossible to doubt
worthy and scrupulous exactness, and yet may be gence of every passion, and the same gratification morally insane."
of every desire, would transform the loveliest disIt is rather difficult to conceive of the nature of position into the image of a beast. There is nothing that insanity, which “exhibits superior mental ca- which can shield such a person from the arm of the pacity, reasons ably, is conscious of moral rela- law, that might not apply as well to any criminal tionships, and performs all the duties of life with case. Nor can there be found any thing more expraiseworthy and scrupulous exactness." Nor is cusable in the account of the “intelligent and plauit easy to reconcile this agreeable description with sible man, who is represented as having been a the histories of some of the individuals who are scourge to his family in childhood, having been referred to as examples of this kind of insanity. turned out of the army as an incorrigible villain, The names of Tiberius and of Frederick William having attempted the life of a soldier, and subseof Prussia are associated in our minds with quali- quently endeavoring to murder his father.” Nor ties and dispositions of a very opposite character. in the long list of crimes which were committed Many of the alleged cases of this disease which | by the monster Tiberius, nor in the cruelty of are brought forward by Dr. Winslow have nothing the tyrannical Frederick William. It is a false in them palliating, or calculated to awaken our humanity, a morbid sympathy that would ressympathies. Neither do they contain any wonder-cne such deeds from ignominy and their authors ful particulars, which are not easily to be accounted from disgrace. If cases like these are to come for, without resorting to the supposition of a dis- within the limits of moral insanity, and the plea be ease, that is, of any other disease than that which recognized in courts of justice, vice may stalk is inherent in the nature of every individual of abroad with impunity, and innocence will have lost our fallen race. Who can discover in the story of her protection. The cowardly wretch who has yet the spoiled child any thing which may not be found some fragments of conscience left, and halts in the in the story of a thousand other spoiled children. career of transgression, who dares only venture upon Each circumstance in his history grows naturally some petty offence, must suffer the penalty of the out of a preceding one.
law; while he who imbrues his hand in a father's “An only son of a weak and indulgent mother blood may escape. The youthful offender, whose was encouraged in the gratification of every ca- heart is not yet seared to the stings of remorse, is price and passion of which an untutored and vio- held responsible, while the Judases and Caligulas lent temper was susceptible. The impetuosity of go free. his disposition increased with his years. The In cases like the following, the circumstances are money with which he was lavishly supplied re- very different and the question of responsibility moved every obstacle to the indulgence of his will becomes an intricate one. desires. Every instance of opposition or resis “Dr. Zimmerman relates the case of a peasant, tance roused him to acts of fury. He assaulted born at Krumback, in Suabia, who was often his adversaries with the ferocity of a savage; attacked with an irresistible inclination to commit sought to reign by force; and was perpetually em- murder. He felt the approach of the fit many broiled in quarrels. If a dog, a horse, or any other hours, and sometimes a whole day before its invaanimal offended him, it was instantly put to death. sion, and from the commencement of this presenti. If he ever went to a fete, or any other public meet- ment he begged to be secured and chained, that he ing, he was sure to excite such tumults and quar- might not commit some dreadful crime. When rels as terminated in a bloody nose. This wayward the fit comes on,' he says, 'I fecl under the necesyouth, however, when unmoved by passions, pos- sity to kill, even were it a child.' His parent, sessed a perfectly sound judgment. When he be- whom he tenderly loved, he declared would be the came of age he succeeded to the possession of an first victim of this murderous propensity. “My extensive domain. He proved himself fully com- mother," he cried out, with a frightful voice, 'save | petent to the management of his estate, as well as yourself, or I must kill you.' Before the fit he i to the discharge of his relative duties, and he even complains of being exceedingly sleepy; without distinguished himself by acts of benificence and being able to sleep he feels depressed, and expecompassion. Wounds, law suits and pecuniary com- riences slight twitchings in the limbs. During the pensations were generally the consequences of his fit he preserves his consciousness, and knows perunhappy propensity to quarrel. But an act of no- fectly well that, in committing a murder, he would toriety put an end to his career of violence. En- be guilty of an attrocious crime. When he is disaraged with a woman who had used offensive lan- bled from doing injury he makes the most frightful guage to him, he precipitated her into a well. A contortions and grimaces, singing or talking in prosecution was commenced against him; on the rhyme. The fits last from one to two days. When deposition of several witnesses, he was condemned they are over he cries out, “ Now unbind me. Alas! to perpetual imprisonment in the Bicetre." I have suffered cruelly, but I rejoice that I have
There is no mystery in this young man's career. killed nobody.'' The same train of circumstances, the same indul “ Dr. Marechal relates the case of a lady unhap
pily married. She had a child, whom she nursed is no assignable cause for the act, except the irrefor the period of three months, at which time she sistible propensity to kill. But a desire, or probecame melancholy, and was often seen in tears. pensity, cannot govern a man's actions immediOne day, when sitting near the fire, she exclaimed ately. There must be the interposition of some with eagerness and agony, 'snatch the child from executive power and this power is usually called me or I will throw it in the flames.' She then con- the will-still if the desire be absolutely irresistifessed that for a long time she had been struggling ble, the will becomes enslaved, and although an against an almost irresistible impulse to destroy the act under such circumstances is in some sense a child, and that on approaching a window or fire voluntary one, yet it cannot be called a free act. the desire always revived. The infant was taken Whether we suppose, then, the ruling power to be from her; she became melancholy; and lamenting an unnatural propensity, the result of a diseased her unhappy propensity, attempted suicide. She condition of the body, or one of the emissaries of recovered, but three days afterwards had a relapse ; the Prince of Darkness, it seems hard to hold the and in the second month of nursing was seized with afflicted person responsible. This whole subject the same unnatural propensity, and after resisting is a new one, and lays open a wide field for philosoits force for some time again parted with the child, phical inquiry. It is impossible, at this stage of and horrified at her own condition, repeatedly tried the investigation, to lay down any general princito commit self-destruction."
ple to be applied to alleged cases of the disease. There is much to excite our sympathies in the It is hoped, however, that the sympathy which is condition of the man struggling with the desire of now so universal in behalf of the insane, and the committing an act which is revolting to his sensi- interest which is exhibited by medical jurists, will bilities; in his maternal love, his agony and suffer- lead to the establishment of some fixed rules, which ings, and above all in his tender solicitude lest any may serve at least as useful a purpose, in guiding one should be injured. And still more in the mise- the decisions of our courts of judicature, as those rable condition of the mother tempted to destroy now employed in ordinary cases of mental insanity. the infant of her bosom. To one who is inclined Dr. Winslow treats briefly of several other states to believe that the day of demoniacal possession of the mind, as to drunkenness and somnambulism; has not gone by, such instances would afford strong the sleeping and the sleep-waking state. There are confirmation of his opinion. The desire which im- many interesting questions concerning the phepels these unhappy persons to homicide and suicide nomena of these states, which must be passed over appears so inconsistent with their general disposi- for the present. In conclusion, I cannot too strongtions, it is difficult to conceive it to be a part of the ly recommend the perusal of Dr. Winslow's little same nature. Consciousness is not lost and there treatise to all who feel interested in the cause of is no perceptible delusion; yet the mind appears to humanity. Sympathy for the afflicted is most be in a most unnatural state. Dr. Winslow thinks, honorable and praiseworthy, but the protection of " that if the mental condition of these patients society, and the punishment of the guilty, demand were carefully inquired into, we should generally that this sympathy should be an enlightened one. discover the presence of some hallucination, or Let not the individual who has no control over his perversion of the mental faculties, conjoined with actions suffer the extreme penalty of the law, nor the horrible destructive impulses which appear to yet the real criminal escape, merely because of the be the only indications of the presence of insanity." enormity of his crime, and the depravity of his If this point could be established, it would greatly heart. facilitate the determination of the question of responsibility. The slightest mental derangement would be sufficient to mark the difference between the moral mania and vicious disposition. It is
THE IRON STEED. true, that the acts in the cases related by Drs.
From a Poem. Marechal and Zimmerman, appear to be committed by involuntary agents, and if so, one essential would be wanting to constitute moral responsibility.
VI. But there is a difficulty in predicating a want of 'Twas a glorious union when Nature and Science, volition in such cases.
Either the act is commit By the goddess of Art, to the altar were led! ted without any mental operation, and the man is The Iron Steed sprang from the hallowed alliance, a mere machine, or else it must be a voluntary act.
And forth on his errand of glory he sped. But, although the will is not dethroned, yet it all hail! to the Iron Steed, now and forever!
On land and on ocean the truest and best; seems to occupy a subordinate station. No mo-He will browse on the forest, and drink from the river, tive can be discovered which will account for the
And work night and day without stopping to rest ! crime; on the contrary, the act is commit:ed in
VII. opposition to the criminal's ideas of right and who so faithful and fearless in battle as he ! wrong, and the best feelings of his nature. There His harness is ringing—he pants for the fight !
BY PAYNE KENYON KILBOURN.