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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 48.djvu/569

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THE STAMPING OUT OF CRIME.

THE STAMPING OUT OF CRIME.
By Dr. NATHAN OPPENHEIM.

IT is only a short time since civilized nations abolished slavery, and already we look back with wonder at our own and other countries, and are barely able to realize that the world could have borne such an unspeakable institution—that it could have steadily progressed while weighted with the breaking load of such a burden. Nevertheless, for thousands of years, and even at times of exquisite culture, men thought that slavery was inevitable, or even necessary, or at any rate that it could never be done away with. Now there is an equal steadfastness of opinion in the opposite direction. We regard with horror the social condition which justified bondage; we are astounded that we could have lived in such an atmosphere.

There are other similar examples in the history of civilization. Until the present century drunkenness was almost universal, and the gentleman who did not drink himself under the table was thought at best to be a poor sort of man. Our present attitude in the matter is just as great a revolution as our change in regard to slavery. Likewise is there an equally great difference so far as the interests of society are concerned. Again, until the middle of this century there was a constant succession of wars among the principal nations; but within a few years conditions have so changed that the man who dared to precipitate a war would be utterly overwhelmed with universal abhorrence.

If we look into the future, we may see as great a change, which is beginning to assert itself in regard to the necessity of crime. Indeed, the above analogies are well carried out, from the fact that so many people at present think crime is inevitable—that because society has always sweated under this burden it follows that the burden must ever be carried. On the contrary, because society has always been oppressed with crime there is good reason to suppose that changed conditions must alter the present facts, and that we may look for a season when crime as a constant and unvarying social element will have ceased to exist; when it will show itself in minor and individual cases, as drunkenness is beginning to do, as plagues and epidemics are beginning to do.

One of the best indications for hope is the growing effort to study crime accurately; not merely to regard it as an excuse for confining lawbreakers in self-infecting herds, where they may undisturbed pollute one another, but, on the other hand, to seek for the causes of crime, to ascertain all its concomitant conditions, to recognize and classify the criminal in sociological, psychological ways—in the ways of anatomy and physiology. The