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most important in the prompt detection and arrest of criminals. As many of the duties, however, pertaining to the office were of an unpleasant character, such as examining dead bodies, gentlemen of rank subsequently shrank from their performance, and it gradually fell into disfavor. And when, at length, fees were added, it became the prize after which clamored the lowest grade of politicians. Thus has fallen into unmerited disrepute, an office once honorably distinguished by its intimate association with the highest tribunals of justice. But notwithstanding this degradation of its character, and the inferior grade of incumbents consequent thereon, its functions have scarcely been changed. In most of the States the office of coroner exists, and the rules which govern it do not differ materially from those imposed by the English laws. These are loose and indefinite to a degree that renders the office almost nugatory when administered, as it now too often is, by imcompetent men. The law which created the office of coroner and defined its duties centuries ago, still governs it in spirit. Notwithstanding the immense increase of those subtile agencies by which crime may be clandestinely perpetrated, and the vast improvement of the methods of investigating the causes of death, as by the microscope, by chemical manipulation, and by accurate pathology, a coroner is still allowed to make as superficial an examination as he pleases, and render a verdict as to
the cause of death in terms so indefinite, that it can not be classified according to any modern system of nomenclature. Mr. Farr says (Registrar General's Report): "The causes of deaths, registered as the result of a solemn, judicial investigation, are the most unintelligible in the Register, as it is impossible to attach a specific idea to 'natural death,' to 'visitation of God,' and several other phrases in use in coroners' courts." We can not, indeed, present a better illustration of the utter perversion of the true objects of this office than that drawn from actual experience. An arrogant, conceited official, ignorant not only of the first principles of law and medicine, but even of the English language, decides as to the cause of death where a capable medical attendant is in doubt. He refuses a post-mortem examination, probably considering it a reflection upon his intuitive knowledge of the cause of death, and instructs the jury, composed of some luckless employees lounging in the vicinity, as to the verdict that they must render. This must not be taken as an exceptional case; scenes like these are of every-day occurrence in our city. No one need be surprised that New York has gained an unenviable notoriety for its weekly deaths by violence, when the officer whose duty it is to take the initiatory step toward the arrest of criminals, exhibits such gross ignorance and imbecility. How shall these evils be remedied? Two methods are suggested.
The first is, the abolition of the office, and the transfer of its duties to the magistrates' court, where these investigations would be conducted in a legal and orderly manner. It is contended by eminent medical and legal gentlemen that the interests of society would be equally subserved if this change were made. Many who have been obliged to attend much upon a coroner's court, and submit to the insufferable medical and legal pedantry of the presiding genius, will be inclined to favor this method of reform. The second proposition, and which is the most rational, is to remodel our laws relating to the office of coroner, and compel the selection of a competent person as its incumbent. The laws should define with exactness the various duties to be performed by the coroner, such as causing, in all cases, postmortem examinations by competent persons, such investigations by experts as the present state of the medical sciences requires, to determine satisfactorily the causes of death. But even this would fail of securing an enlightened and efficient medical jurisprudence without qualified coroners. That this officer should, in general, be a medical man of education and experience, no one can doubt. It is true that not every physician is qualified for the office of coroner, but we hold that a medical education is a prerequisite which the law should establish.
THE SABBATH QUESTION.
UROPEAN travelers in this country are accustomed to remark the general observance of the Sabbath as a day of rest by the masses of the American people. So strikingly does this custom contrast with the prevailing habits of continental communities, that many have regarded it as a distinctive feature of our civilization. Of the truth of this observation there is no doubt. Although as a people we present a singular admixture of the European nations, every one being represented but in variable proportions, the social fabric of our civilization was firmly laid by a single and united class, exiled from these old communities. During the long interval of nearly two centuries which elapsed between the first settlement of the Protestant refugees in America, and the general emigration of all classes from the Old World, the principles upon which our civil as well as social institutions were established, became of vital importance in the opinions of the people to their very existence. To our Puritan forefathers are we indebted for many of our distinctive social peculiarities, and for none more directly than
the civil as well as Christian Sabbath. The religious observance of this day by the entire community was regarded of such consequence to the welfare, not only of the individual, but of the State, that government early took cognizance of it, and forbade, under severe penalties, the slightest infringement of its sacred obligations. Ludicrous as appear many of the civil restrictions thus imposed upon individuals, we can not fail to recognize the deep and lasting impression which religious training, enforced and made obligatory by the sanction of the State, has made upon our social and civil condition. The observance of the Christian Sabbath, as a day of rest from all secular employments, and for the inculcation of religious truths, may be considered a fixed American custom. The general emigration which took place from all European countries during the last quarter of a century, and converged to our shores, has concentrated, especially in large towns, a people educated to regard the Sabbath as at best a day to be devoted to recreation and amusement. They are intolerant of the restraint which government has imposed, and demand entire freedom in the pursuit of selfgratification. Within the last two or three years the respective advocates of these two phases of social and civil custom have been arrayed against each other, but, as yet, the American idea of the Sabbath has prevailed in all the States where the question has been agitated, and laws have been enacted providing still stronger safeguards