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equally operative. Intemperance, licentiousness, violent passions, the more gloomy forms of superstitious belief, and many purely physical circumstances, are very active in scattering the seeds of the complaint, and all these may be as frequent and as efficient
among savages as with civilized men. Unquestionably, there are certain states of cultivated society - and we fear our own social system is to be ranked among them — which are very favorable to the growth and development of this terrible disease. Where wealth and distinction pass rapidly from hand to hand, where the prizes of life are held up in glittering profusion in a race open to all comers, and where emulation, avarice, and ambition are consequently stimulated to the utmost ; where the young are most affected by such excitements, and precocity of talent is most observable and most favored ; where a general license of specula-, tion exists on all topics, especially on politics and religion, and where advanced systems of education, and the peculiarities of democratic institutions, cause disputes upon these subjects to be carried on among all classes, even the lowest in the community, so that they fill the void in every one's life which is occupied in other countries by less agitating popular amusements; in short, where all the causes of mental anxiety and agitation are so rise, that excitement becomes habitual to the mind, and there is a perpetual longing for it ; – there insanity may be expected to become an epidemic. These circumstances may not operate as immediate and efficient causes of the disease; but they prepare the ground for it, so that every seed which may happen to fall is sure to vegetate.
But it is not our object now to discuss either the statistics or the causes of aberration of mind. The questions of law which grow up out of the existence of insanity are numerous and important, and our present purpose is to consider these legal relations of the disease. Viewed under this aspect, the topic becomes a sort of neutral ground between the professions of law and medicine; and its intrinsic difficulties are not lessened, when the conflicting opinions, principles, and hab ts of mind of iwo very different classes of persons are brought to bear upon it. In the publications named at the head of this article, and in other writings upon the subject, nothing appears more plainly, than the violent contrast between the lawyer's habitual veneration for fixed maxims and long established precedents, and the rather loose empiricism
of the physician, who welcomes every new case as the possible basis of a new principle, and almost every novel theory as affording at least a more accurate method of classifying the various forms of the malady. Each is naturally watchful over his own jurisdiction, and jealous of the other's encroachments; and the uninstructed multitude, belonging to neither party, look on with amazement, wondering who shall decide when doctors and judges disagree. A reviewer may be presumed to be neutral, and is therefore guilty of less arrogance than is usual, when he undertakes to be umpire between two disputants, or to write upon matters in which he has had no professional experience.
Dr. Ray's work is already favorably known to the public, having passed through one edition, and being frequently cited with respect both by lawyers and physicians. The writer is eminently qualified for his task by long professional experience, much study, and an acute and reflecting turn of mind. He has the rare merit of not dogmatizing upon a theme which has occupied so much of his attention, and which he has had so great facilities for studying, that he may reasonably suppose himself to be more able to form a correct judgment upon it than most other members either of the legal or medical fraternity. His conclusions are adopted with care, cautiously expressed, and supported by an abundant array of facts and arguments. He leans, as is natural, towards his own profession, and manifests some impatience at the pertinacity of the lawyers in applying ancient legal maxims to cases of insanity, which ought rather to be governed by principles derived from the enlarged experience and improved science of the present day. But this preference is not unreasonably indulged, and the writer often shows considerable tact and versatility of mind in contemplating his subject under its exclusively legal relations. If he has any undue bias, it proceeds from the doctrines of pbrenology; for although he nowhere expresses his belief in this pretended science, and even cautiously avoids any use of its terminology, we can trace its effects here and there upon the formation of his opinions. And we cannot share the confidence with which he traces all the forms of mania to disease of the brain, and denies that it can ever be attributed solely to an affection of the immaterial principle. Many instances of monomania, unquestionably produced by brooding too long and too anx
iously over one idea, seem to us to point directly to a different conclusion ; and the admitted fact, that, in numerous instances, no morbid affection of the brain can be discovered, is enough to unsettle this sweeping assertion. The induction from facts stopping short at a certain point, the completeness of the generalization must be attributed, not to observation, but to hypothesis. In the science of medicine, little reasoning is safe which goes beyond the limits of the most cautious empiricism.
The literary execution of Dr. Ray's book is of a high order. He is master of an easy, correct, and sustained style, with sufficient command of words always to indicate the exact shade of thought, and never to leave the reader in doubt as to his meaning. There is sometimes a luxuriance of expression, in describing the different manifestations of disease, which rises almost to eloquence, and not only conveys distinct ideas, but inspires strong emotion. Almost his only fault of manner is a tendency to diffuseness, which sometimes obscures the main points of bis theme by a cloud of amplification. The style is elegant and flowing, but lacks point and ters ness. The usefulness of a book, which is necessarily, in some degree, a work of reference, and not intended merely for continued perusal, is increased by compression, and a somewhat formal and distinct enunciation of the principles wbich the writer seeks to establish.
Of the other works now before us, one is a very full and elaborate report of the trial of Abner Rogers, Jr., one of the most important cases involving the law of insanity which have recently been decided in this country.
The arguments of the counsel are given at great length, and embody a great amount of legal learning and sound reasoning upon this difficult subject. They give a satisfactory view of ihe leading cases, the discussion of which has determined the legal effects of the plea of insanity in criminal trials ; and the very able charge of the judge, though not reported with so much fulness, shows clearly what is the present law on this head in our own courts.
Equally satisfactory for English practice is the short treatise of Mr. Winslow, which presents a very succinct review of the recent decisions of the English judges in cases of alleged insanity, and of the speculations of medical men in regard to those cases. The trial of Oxford, who shot at the
queen, and of McNaughton, who was tried for the murder of Mr. Drummond, the private secretary of Sir Robert Peel, excited great interest, and caused much alarm lest the indulgence shown by the legal tribunals to the plea of insanity should favor the escape of notorious criminals, and defeat the ends of justice. To quiet this apprehension, the House of Lords called upon the twelve judges to state definitely what was the law upon some of the nicest questions which were involved in the discussion of these cases. The answer of the judges is given in the appendix to Mr. Winslow's book, and though expressed with great caution, lest the generality of the terms should lead to error when applied to particular cases, it indicates with sufficient clearness the legal principles applicable to the subject, of which it must be regarded as the latest and most authoritative exposition.
Although the law, as stated on this occasion, is by no means so favorable to the criminal supposed to be insane, as most medical authorities would have it, or as the advanced state of science respecting the nature and operation of many forms of mental disease would seem to justify, it is a great advance, in point of leniency to the accused, beyond the legal maxims which were deemed binding only a few years ago. The general principle of English jurispudence is, that a man is responsible for his acts so long as he is capable of distinguishing between right and wrong: On the trial of Bellingham for killing Mr. Percival, Lord Mansfield instructed the jury, that the single question for them to consider was, “ whether, at the time this act was committed, the accused possessed a sufficient degree of understanding to distinguish good from evil, right from wrong, and whether murder was a crime not only against the laws of God, but the law of his country.” Under this instruction, Bellingham was convicted and executed within eight days after the commission of the offence, although he was unquestionably deranged, as he fancied that the killing of the prime minister of England was the only means of obtaining redress for his imaginary wrongs. His delusion consisted in the belief, that his private affairs were matters of national concern, and that the government was bound to afford him redress, and would do so, if he could only contrive a means of bringing his case before the country. Under the circumstances, such an idea could not have entered the head of a sane man, and the absurd choice of a means of obtaining the desired publicity for his case was a further proof of his general unsoundness of mind.
Severe as the rule of law may seem which was applied in this trial, it was not so harsh and unreasonable as the principle inculcated by English jurists at a still earlier day. Thus, Lord Hale recognized the distinction between partial and total insanity, but expressly declared that the former did not constitute an excuse for an offence which would otherwise be capital. He seemed to suppose, that the difference between the two kinds of mania was not in kind, but in degree, and, therefore, that the partially insane person might still possess as much understanding as a child fourteen years old, and consequently be liable to punishment. In conformity with this opinion, Mr. Justice Tracy declared, in 1723, that “not every kind of frantic humor” can exempt a man from punishment; but before he can be held innocent, it must be shown that he is “totally deprived of his understanding and memory.” Under this interpretation of the law, Arnold was convicted for shooting at Lord Onslow, and sentenced to be hanged, though it was fully proved that his family and neighbours for many years had considered him insane, and that he was in the habit of declaring, “ that Lord Onslow sent his devils and imps into his room at night to disturb his rest, and that he constantly plagued and bewitched him, by getting into his belly or bosom, so that he could neither eat, drink, nor sleep for bim.” Later observation has established the fact, that the monomaniac is quite as irrational on the particular subject of his delusion as the frenzied madman is upon all subjects. If the offence, then, with which he is charged, grew out of his particular delusion, — if an obvious connection can be traced in the mind of the accused between the two, he is equally entitled with the latter to an acquittal. Arnold would not have sought to injure Lord Onslow, if he had not been possessed by ihe insane notion, that his Lordship sent devils into his room to disturb his sleep ; and therefore the injustice done by his conviction is flagrant.
This was the doctrine maintained by Mr. Erskine in the celebrated trial of Hadfield, and the recognition of it by the court on that occasion constitutes the first marked improvement in the spirit of the English law on this subject. The essence of insanity was then acknowledged to consist, not in the to