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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/445

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POPULAR MISCELLANY.

in the soles and palms, which accompanies certain diseases in some people, is a cause of sleeplessness that will give way to sponging the parts with vinegar and water. Wakefulness is sometimes the result of lack of food, and a glass of cold water or pale ale, or the eating of a sandwich, will, by setting up activity in the abdominal organs, divert the superabundant blood from the head, thus removing the cause of the unnatural activity of the brain. One reason why the most gifted minds have frequently been afflicted by sleeplessness is because bodily exercise is too often neglected by people devoted to intellectual pursuits. For such persons there is no better soporific than muscular exertion, carried even, in extreme cases, to a sense of fatigue.

 

Criminal Responsibility of the Insane.—It is a difficult matter to define with anything like precision the point at which we should cease to regard crime as the result of depravity and begin to treat the wrong-doer as the victim of disease. Prof. C. J. Cullingworth, of Owens College, thinks that certain forms of insanity are not properly regarded in the practice of the English criminal courts. In 1843 the House of Lords obtained from the judges who had acquitted the murderer McNaghten, on the plea of insanity, the opinion that, "to establish a defense on the ground of insanity, it must be clearly proved that at the time of committing the act the party accused was laboring under such a defect of reason from disease of the mind as not to know the nature and quality of the act he was doing, or, if he did know it, that he did not know he was doing what was wrong." Ever since it was put forth, this test has been treated as though it were the law of the land. It is, however, far from satisfactory, in that it restricts mind to the intelligence, and ignores the emotions and the will. Now it is by no means unusual to find the disorder of the emotions and the will far greater than that of the intellect, and especially in the cases of those whom insanity is most likely to impel to criminal acts. It is a common experience in lunatic asylums to find that the very persons who are the most dangerous to themselves and those about them are the most intelligent inmates in the institution. This is not a purely medical view of the question. Sir James Stephen has said: "No doubt there are cases in which madness interferes with the power of self-control, and so leaves the sufferer at the mercy of any temptation to which he may be exposed. . . . I do not think that a person unable to control his conduct should be the subject of legal punishment." Here we are brought face to face with the fiercely disputed question whether there is or is not such a thing as irresistible impulse—that is, whether persons apparently sane, and at any rate free from obvious delusion, may be impelled to insane acts by a force that they can not control. "I can not deny that medical witnesses have sometimes pressed this doctrine of irresistible influence unduly; still, there are undoubtedly cases where the insanity reveals itself chiefly, if not solely, in acts of violence, the consequence of uncontrollable impulse. The popular notions that one man can recognize lunacy as well as another, and that it invariably betrays itself by definite and unmistakable symptoms, are altogether erroneous. In a lunatic asylum the raving maniac is an exception, the majority of the inmates being quiet, orderly persons, who present, so far as their outward appearance goes, little or nothing to distinguish them from other people. Probably no one visits such an institution for the first time without being puzzled to know which are the officials and which the inmates. Like other chronic disorders, insanity is apt to come on insidiously. A certain alteration of manner, a disposition to talk a little more or a little less than usual, an unaccustomed recklessness in expenditure, a tendency to be suspicious of those who have hitherto been implicitly trusted, a slight failure in business capacity—these may be all the symptoms that mark the departure from mental health, until one day the smoldering insanity breaks out in an act of violence. The analogy between epilepsy and those forms of insanity which are accompanied with sudden outbursts is a very close one. The causes that have been at work in each case have been cumulative in their action, and only when the accumulated irritation has reached a certain degree of intensity has there been any, or but the very slightest, outward indication of the gathering storm. The spectacle