Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 36.djvu/98

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pursued, I would propose the appointment of a committee or commission, composed in equal parts of lawyers and medical men, whose duty it should be to visit the asylums as often as they might deem expedient, to examine individually all patients detained there who have been charged with murder, and also the officers of the asylums, and their case-books and registers, and to report annually on the mental condition of every such patient, with special reference to the circumstances of the crime of which he or she was accused, and the evidence adduced at his or her trial, adding such remarks on the relations of insanity and crime, and such recommendations for alterations of the law, as their experience may suggest to them.

Looking forward to such reports, the faithful scientific witness would speak with confidence, assured that his evidence, although it might appear strained at the time, would be confirmed by events; while the pseudo-scientific witness, if there be any such, who is led into the box by a thirst for notoriety or a spurious philanthropy, would pause before committing himself to statements which might rise up in judgment against him in a very damaging and persistent way. And there can be no impropriety in alleging that such reports would ultimately prove useful to judges and counsel.

Beyond this, the deliberations of such a commission would conduce in some degree to an agreement between lawyers and doctors on the question of insanity and crime. It is in the atmosphere of the courts of law that differences between them spring up, differences which in private conference speedily dwindle away. It is about theoretical definitions and verbal distinctions that they contend; and wherever they are brought together in actual contact over a case anywhere save in a court of law, the lawyers with striking aptitude adopt the scientific standpoint, and harmony results.—The Lancet.

By Prof. W. K. BROOKS,


IN three years the world will unite in celebrating the four hundredth anniversary of what, from our point of view, is the grandest and most important event in history, the landing of Columbus; but in our consciousness of its profound significance, are we not in danger of forgetting that the Spaniards discovered America in the way that pirates discover a vessel with a helpless crew? While no one can doubt that the world, as a whole, has been benefited, there is reason to question whether any of the islands which Columbus himself discovered have profited by the change.