Popular Science Monthly/Volume 53/September 1898/Scientific Literature

Scientific Literature.


M. Louis Proal's Political Crime[1] the best volume of the Criminology Series, is a needful contribution to the study of sociology. Few people have any adequate conception of the amount of crime connected with politics. Still fewer appreciate the far reaching and deplorable consequences of that crime. The reason is plain. An idea altogether too prevalent is that in politics a course of conduct may be pursued that would be regarded as highly immoral and reprehensible in other forms of human activity. In the interest of the public welfare it is permissible to practice a code of ethics that differs in no wise from that practiced in war—a code that found its most perfect and odious exposition in Machiavelli's Prince. M. Proal's book is an energetic and scholarly protest against this view. "Craft and violence," he says, "may score ephemeral successes, but they do not assure the greatness and prosperity of a country. The successes achieved by an immoral policy are not lasting; sooner or later nations, like individuals, politicians just as private persons, are punished for the evil or rewarded for the good they do." Again he says; "If a lengthy period be examined, one is struck in a general way by the fact that failure attends an immoral policy. A politician, face to face with a serious difficulty, thinks recourse to an unjust expedient of immediate utility the simplest mode of escape from it, but the future is not slow to teach him the drawbacks of injustice." Never was there a time in our own history when it was more important that such a lesson be learned, not only by politicians but by philanthropists of the socialistic order, and scrupulously observed.

At the outset M. Proal exposes the falsity of the current notion that the philosophy invented to justify this form of crime originated with Machiavelli. "Politics," he says, "did not await the advent of Machiavelli to become shifty, violent, and sanguinary. Statesmen did not need the lessons of the Italian writer to teach them to lie, to proscribe their adversaries, and confiscate their belongings. The desire to rule, the exercise of authority," he adds, explaining the cause of political crime and exposing its kinship with war, "teach fraud and violence." Even so great a philosopher as Plato and so enlightened a statesman as Canning approved Machiavellian principles. "It seems to me," wrote the Greek in his Politics, "that our magistrates will often be obliged to have recourse to lying and deceit in the interest of their fellow-citizens, and we have declared elsewhere that a lie is useful when it is employed as a remedy—and rightly so." Referring to the unjust laws promulgated against the Catholics under James I, the Englishman says, "Unjust as these stipulations were, the safety of the state rendered them necessary." It is only when such principles are found in the mouth of a terrorist like Marat that their infamous character is fully realized. "Before this supreme law," he wrote, alluding to "the safety of the people," and in justification of the crimes that he and his partisans committed, "all other laws should be as naught. To save the country all means are good, all means are just, all means are meritorious."

M. Proal's exposition of the direful fruits of such a political philosophy is scholarly and complete. Of the eleven chapters in his book, nine of them are devoted to a citation of some of the more striking crimes of ancient and modern history, particularly that of France, committed to insure "the safety of the people." They are of great interest and value, including as they do Political Assassination and Tyrannicide, Anarchism, Political Hatreds, Political Hypocrisy, Political Spoliation, Corruption among Politicians, Electoral Corruption, The Corruption of Law and Justice by Politics, and The Corruption of Morals by Politics. The cumulative effect of this mass of facts is irresistible. They make clear, as nothing else can, how politics may poison the whole social fabric—how, indeed, it may produce effects wholly unexpected. "Bad political morals," says M. Proal, "spread to the people; they accustom it to deceit, cruelty, and injustice, and they diminish its loathing for evil. The immorality of those who govern infects sooner or later those who are governed." He tells us that "the Terror rendered cruel even those who fought against it, and it left its mark upon the youth of the higher classes." He tells us further that "the triumph of might makes people lose confidence in right, and destroys their faith in justice." Not only do immoral politics lead to cruelty and greed, but, as M. Proal shows by a number of examples, to intemperance, gluttony, and even sexual laxity. He shows, finally, that by "the creation of privileges" they produce changes in the structure of society. "Undoing the work of God, who gave the same rights to all men," he says, "they have created inequality in the matter of civil and political rights, they have altered the true mutual relations of men, and they have established inequality even in respect to justice."

The only important lesson taught by this demoralization is not the necessity of a scrupulous observance of a rigid code of ethics in political action. Hardly less important is the lesson that all writers and public speakers should possess sound judgment. "I believe," says M. Proal, "that disordered ideas produce moral disorder, that a false thesis may call forth an infinite number of bad actions, that a sophism is often more dangerous to society than a crime." As judge of the Court of Appeal at Aix, before which political criminals had been tried, he had ample opportunity to confirm this view. Reprobation too severe can not, therefore, be visited upon such a writer as M. Renan, who says, "It is better that a people should be immoral than that it should be fanatical." Nor should approval ever be bestowed upon works in glorification of revolution or other forms of violence. They are text-books of political crime. "The historian," said Lamartine, who, with Thiers and Louis Blanc, had been guilty of the offense, "who furnishes crime with an excuse and cruelty with a fallacious pretext, paves the way unawares for future indulgence toward the imitators of these crimes." As to certain newspapers and speakers, with which. the United States as well as France is cursed, M. Proal says that "like corrosive acids," they "destroy all they touch," and "like alcohol," they "inflame the blood, agitate the nerves, sear the brain, and dry up the heart." Until the truth with regard to the facts of history and the questions of the day is set forth scrupulously, it is needless to expect an end of political crime.

Professor Packard's elaborate Text-Book of Entomology[2] was prepared with the wants of both the student and teacher in mind, and the book has grown in part out of the writer's experience in class work. In instructing small classes in the anatomy and metamorphoses of insects, it was felt that the mere dissection and drawing of a few types comprising some of our common insects were not sufficient for broad, thorough work. Without depreciating the importance of laboratory study, it needed to be supplemented by frequent explanations or formal lectures, with collateral reading by the student in some general treatise in structural and developmental entomology. The present text has been prepared to serve this purpose, giving, of course, with much greater fullness and detail what was roughly outlined in the class work. The aim has been to afford a broad foundation for future more special research by any one who may want to carry on the study of some groups of insects, or to extend in any special direction our present knowledge of insect morphology and growth. The number of insects in orders, families, genera, and species (they forming about four fifths of the animal kingdom), their habits and transformations, and the variety of ways in which they affect human interests, are given as reasons why they have attracted more attention from students than any other classes of animals. They are represented as perhaps more complicated in structure than any other animals. Having defined their general position. Professor Packard describes the chief differences between them and their neighbors—the crustaceans, trilobites, spiders, and others. Their morphology and physiology are considered in respect to their external and internal anatomy, under which head all their parts are described with their several relations and functions. The second part of the book is devoted to the embryology of insects, and the third to their metamorphoses. Copious bibliographical lists are appended to each of the departments, arranged by dates so as to give an idea of the historical development of the subject. A full index completes the volume.

  1. Political Crime. By Louis Proal. New York: D. Appleton and Company. Pp. 335. Price, $1.50.
  2. A Text-Book of Entomology, including the Anatomy, Physiology, Embryology, and Metamorphoses of Insects. For Use in Agricultural and Technical Schools and Colleges, as well as by the Working Entomologist. By Alpheus S. Packard. New York: The Macmillan Company. Pp. 727. Price, $4.50.