Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

66

low, selfish aims of regularly educated medical men. Medicine," says Hippocrates, "is of all the arts the most noble; but owing to the ignorance of those who practise it, and of those who inconsiderately form a judgment of these, it is at present far behind all other arts." A remark more pertinent to our own times could not well have been made. The venerable physician who condemns his patient's aversion to his favorite operation of phlebotomy, has lived to see the patient become wiser than himself. It is not a change in public sentiment that renders the practitioner of to-day less successful in gaining the confidence of his families than formerly, but it is 'the rust that he has allowed to accumulate upon his knowledge, which the intelligent communities of our time readily discover. We have mentioned cupidity as one of the sins of medical men, which tends to abase medicine. We believe it is the most damning evil of the profession of our times. It is not only the grand obstacle to the constant acquisition of knowledge, which should characterize the true physician, but it leads him into evil practices and unprofessional associations, which degrade his profession to a level with that of the merest trade. The wild rush of medical men for business, the arts by which they often obtain it, and the desperation of the less successful, are most humiliating to witness. It is not to be denied, and we make the confession with shame, that there are practitioners among us, holding

important medical positions, who give profes sional advice to irregular practitioners, simply to gain the paltry fees which accrue from such associations. Many weak and timid men are led by these examples to disregard the high obligations of their calling, and, allured by the vaunted popular estimation of the various forms of empiricism, to seek its flattering rewards; they soon become indifferent to their shame and disgrace, and are lost to our profession. Such are some of the causes of the evil times upon which we are thought to have fallen, and of which we hear such frequent complaints. The remedy, like the evil, is in the profession itself. The line between the true and false, the honest and the dishonest, can not be too strictly drawn, nor too rigidly maintained. Let the profession not only eschew all alliance with empiricism, but reject from its fellowship all who countenance or abet irregular practice. Let it purge itself of these unworthy members, these perpetual croakers, whose instincts lead them to quackery, and who are withheld from its full embrace only by the desire to maintain a certain degree of respectability. Then will the greatest obstacle to the triumph of legitimate medicine be removed, and we may hail the epoch of the "good time coming."

VIII.

PREVENTION OF CRIME.

D

URING the past year one hundred and sixteen citizens of New York City died by the hand of violence. Of this large number, 59 are recorded as homicides, and 57 as suicides. The problem of the prevention of crime has taxed the genius of the wisest statesmen and the most experienced philanthropists. To this end the penitentiary, the prison, the rack, and the gallows have been established, but as yet without avail in completely restraining the vicious. With reference to homicide this question presents two phases: 1st, The removal of the causes of crime; 2d, The punishment of the criminal. It will surprise no one to learn that on investigation it appears that in the great majority of cases of homicide, intemperance is the cause. In this city, so distinguished for its "rum for the million," it supplies the animus to the criminal, however thoroughly his plans are premeditated, in nine cases out of ten. This fact is so patent to every observer that it needs no illustration at our hands. But one plain, simple, practical question presents itself to the legislator, viz. shall this prolific cause of the most heinous crime known to human so

ciety, be removed? On the answer to this question depends the length of our criminal calendar. We are aware that many difficulties tend to complicate its settlement in the affirmative, but we are also aware that these obstacles have been met by other communities, and resolutely overcome. The results of such legislation have always been of the most cheering character. Penitentiaries, prisons, and almshouses have been deprived of their occupants, and even courts have met to adjourn without a cause upon their criminal calendar. No man can doubt that if during the year upon which we have entered, not a drop of spirituous liquor was drunk by the people of this city, our almshouses, hospitals, and prisons would be emptied of nine-tenths of their present number of inmates, and our criminal statistics for the year would be reduced 99 per cent. Again, insane persons, with depraved and dangerous propensities, are so frequently permitted to roam unrestrained about our streets, that we are prepared to witness tragedies the most horrible and sudden at any time and in any place. On the 7th of December last, this city was thrown into a fever of excitement at the report of the shocking murder of Mrs. Shanks, a worthy seamstress, and shopkeeper, while at her breakfast in the parlor adjacent to her store. This fiendish act was perpetrated in an open apartment on a busy street, within a few steps of Broadway and Union Square. The murderer was a lad well known in

that neighborhood as a strange and sullen fellow, and in the criminal courts he was recognised as a person of unsound mind and uncontrolled propensities to commit crimes against property and life. To the police he was known as an epileptic whom they often rescued from harm when suffering his unfortunate seizures in the streets. He sometimes had as many as twenty-five of these fits in a single day, and his mind was so affected that his parents could do nothing with him. After having been four months in a Lunatic Asylum he was permitted to return to his parents' home and go at large in the city. Having at one time set fire to some shops and a public school-house, he was judged guilty by the prosecuting officer, but allowed to go unrestrained upon condition his parents would remove him from the city! And now, at last, this miserable young man, after such a career and such unmistakable evidence of mental and moral insanity from a well-known physical disease, yields to his fiendish impulses and brutally murders a kind-hearted lady who has previously shown him peculiar kindness. The deed was manifestly an impulsive one, for strolling into the little store, and seeing the woman at her breakfast, he seized the knife with which she was cutting a loaf, and instantly cut her throat from ear to ear. After the deed he was shy and fearful, and started upon an emigrant train for the West. Being arrested and returned he attempts to cover and deny his crime, as a sane man would

« ForrigeFortsæt »