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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/187

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175
WHAT SHALL WE DO WITH THE "DAGO"?

That question is disposed of by the Boards of Health, into whose province it would seem naturally to come.

Again, as to the duties owed by states to their citizens, two things are, or ought to be, beyond question: first, that the state should attempt the greatest good to the greatest number; and, second, that it should not discriminate against the innocent in favor of the wrong-doer. If, therefore, a state or community building a jail, is unable to provide elaborately organized and classified prisons to punish its wrong-doing citizens without taxing its honest and law-abiding citizens unduly, it would not seem to be its exact duty to do so. It should not impose unbearable or irksome burdens upon its citizens who need no reformation, for the purpose of experimenting upon those to whom reformation is desirable. It is undesirable that a prison should be so constituted or managed as to make its occupants, whether reformable or not, worse than when they entered its portals; but the tendency of human nature to retrograde rather than improve, is, probably, not less constant inside than outside of penitentiaries. So far as this tendency of human nature to retrograde can be shown to be largely enough re-enforced by non-classification of prisoners to work actual harm to the state, some classification ought to be attempted.

To argue as some of us do, for example, that the public revenue should be charged with the expense of building separate institutions for boys who, at ten years of age, have begun to burglarize, and for those who have begun to steal in broad daylight; to keep up with the legal difference between the two crimes; or that a further refinement of distinction should be made between the man who has once and the one who has twice robbed; or between the one who proposes on liberation to rob, and the one who proposes on liberation not to rob again, is not only to be impracticable, but to become absurd. To a philosophic mind this leads up to the doctrine of heredity, and the question whether the criminal classes, from generation to generation, are not always distinct, to about the same proportion, from the law-abiding class. Whether the law-abiding, industrious, and honest classes should be burdened with increased taxes to try and save the freshman criminal from becoming a sophomore, and the junior from graduation into the senior class of crime, is a question much too profound to be solved from any standpoint, especially from the standpoint of the excellent gentlemen who make speeches to the philanthropical societies which speeches are referred to committees, whose reports are printed in unlimited pamphlets; still less from the standpoint of the pamphlets themselves.

So long as governments owe a duty to all classes of the commonwealth alike, and to no one over and above or as against an-