Imágenes de páginas

from punishment; it must be a man that is totally deprived of his understanding and memory, and doth not know what he is doing, no more than an infant, than a brute, or a wild beast; such a one is never the object of punishment." Upon this charge it is scarcely necessary tosay the jury found the prisoner guilty, and he received the sentence of death; though there was no question of his partial insanity. It is worthy of remark, that at the period of this trial, the accused, in such cases, were not allowed to come into court with counsel, except upon the special grace and favor of the court. In the case of Earl Ferrers, tried and convicted of the murder of John Johnson in 1760, the same rule was enforced. On this occasion, the highest solemnities of the law were observed. George II. issued a special commission to his chancellor, Henly, recited that the king considering justice an excellent virtue, and pleasing to the Most High; and concluded with making him Lord High Stewart, with authority to preside in the august court thus organized. Upon the trial, the solicitorgeneral, quoting the law as laid down by Hale, (whom he terms the wise judge and great lawyer,) says, that the result of his whole reasoning stands thus: "If there be a total, permanent want of reason, it will acquit the prisoner. If there be a total temporary want of it when the offence was committed, it will acquit the prisoner; but if there be only a partial degree of insanity, mixed with a partial degree of reason; not a full and complete use of reason, but a competent use of it, sufficient to have restrained those passions which produced the crime; if there be thought and design; a faculty to distinguish the nature of actions; to discern the difference between moral good and evil; then upon the fact of the offence proved the judgment of the law must take place." The case of James Hadfield, quite as interesting as the one first mentioned, was tried in 1800. The indictment was for shooting at the king in a crowded theatre, just as he entered his box, and the audience was rising to cheer him. The rule, as to responsibility for crime, administered in this case, was substantially the same as quoted above; though Mr. Erskine commented upon the rule insisted on by the attorney-general, that to protect a man

from criminal responsibility, there wa'. \t a total deprivation of memory and tusk standing. He admits it the very laag&sp of Coke and Hale, but contends it cami be applied in a literal sense, for in tta case such thing as insanity seldom if ew occurred.

It appeared on the trial that the prim er had been a soldier, and wounded: battle by a blow upon the head, break, the skull and injuring the brain; thai cmediately after the wound was rect/i he became crazy, and continued so oca sionally up to the time of his attempt t kill the king; his insanity being intent:tent. Prior to his receiving the wosd the witnesses proved him brave and kfi and the jury acquitted him on the groc of insanity.

It has been sometimes said that the .•' does not understand, or knows no <fc> tinction between different kinds of insan^ This is not strictly true, as is proved \\ the case of John Bellingham, tried for i murder of the Right Hon. Spencer Pew val, before chief justice Mansfield, in ]*'■! The rule, as laid down in that cast, d empts the prisoner from responsibility, f' vided he is found deprived of all power' reasoning, so as not to be able to di-a guish whether it was right or wrong I commit the most wicked transaction. Bi this, he adds, must be proved, sod ti jury must find it as a fact, beyond a doubt, that at the time he committed i act with which he stood charged, he» not consider that murder was a 8Q against the laws of God and win There was no other proof of insanity *kid would excuse murder or any other criir <

After speaking of other kinds of insar-3; the judge then goes on to say, "Tben"' a third species of insanity in whack ^ patient fancied the existence of injury. ■* sought an opportunity of gratifyvc:" venge by some hostile act. If such »i* son were capable, in other respects' distinguishing right from wrong, there n no excuse for any act of atrocity wbkh h might commit under tbis descriptw ■' derangement."

On the trial of Hadfield. mentvp above, it was contended by Mr. Ersta on behalf of the prisoner, and msy be * sumed, as admitted by the court, tb where the prisoner labored under sdel» >nnected directly with the subject matter : the transaction for which he stands incted, he cannot be convicted of crime, ten though he be not deprived of all ower of reasoning. This distinction, how"er, when examined, fades away into the -iginal color, and leaves to the jury still le same simple inquiry, whether the party, larged with the offence, knew that the jry act he committed was criminal.

Having referred to a few of the leading ises on the subject of insanity, enough to low what the law now is, and how far it iforces human responsibility, we arrive at le point where we have a right, and are 5und to speak for ourselves. With a roper estimate of history we cannot be different to the past, and those various fluences out of which have arisen our ■esent social relations. We go back to le sources of civilization with pleasure, id trace, with delight, the increasing and cpanding volume as it emerges from the ild and mountainous regions of romance, id opens on the unobsructed plain of his>ry. We listen to its many voices, and take ourselves acquainted with its wisdom, ^e go out of ourselves and the present me, to learn the thoughts of those who ave preceded us. We gather instruction om their deeds, and a wise forecast from leir folly. It is thus we trace the prog;ss of opinions, and the slow though conant and firm advance in the tone and ■mper of law—that high and sublime larch of a people, in which there are w hasty changes, and no magnificent rides; but a modest and steady progreson, keeping time with the music of inteljent thought. It is not a romance, nor i epic poem; it is no picture of the aagination, nor republic of Utopia ; but a [■stem of principles that spring up out of »e national mind, and adapt themselves > every condition and circumstance of Fe. Flexible in their nature, and always losely surrounding us, we are generally nmindful of their presence till the very loment we need protection, so easily and aturally do we wear them as an armor of efence.

Like our political institutions, they come own to us from the past, associated with lie events and scenes of history; impersct in particulars, but in the main breathlg the earnest and manly spirit of times

when men stood upon their rights, maintained the claims of the citizen against ths sovereign, and established the law upon the rough and rugged field of battle. They come to us dressed in the style of an early day, but with a universal and catholic authority, comprehending the past, present and future. They command respect and elicit our regard in infancy and childhood, long before we are able to understand them or appreciate their excellence. It is thus the common law becomes a part of the common mind, intimately blending itself with the thoughts, and entering into the judgments of each individual; so that it is not, perhaps, too much to say, that on general subjects the common opinion of the law is the highest and best evidence of what that law w.

There is a strange and wonderful interest attaching itself to every description of insanity. The subtle relation existing between the material and immaterial man, that intimate association of mind with body, acting and reacting sympathetically upon each other, is at all times a subject of interesting and curious speculation. But when examined in connection with derangement of the mental powers, it becomes a mystery passing the ken of human knowledge, around which the light of science sheds no illumination, and gives token of no discovery. On other subjects, investigation repays us with a fixed and satisfactory result; we congratulate ourselves with the discovery of truth, and th« establishment of those general principles upon which the sciences are based. It is a pleasure that springs out of certainty and system, and a harmony that rises from many voices mingling in unison. But on this subject we have no system; it is all mysterious and uncertain, complex and wonderful, as are the operations of the human mind. For though we are able to understand many of the influences that operate remotely to induce insanity, though we can speak of the phenomena that attend it, and sometimes point out the causes that seem to have produced it, though we can trace its stages through disappointment, melancholy, wakefulness, and a sad brooding over real or imaginary wrong, observe the freaks of fancy, the odd conceits and strange devices that occasionally denote the source of madness, though we can sometimes discover and pronounce upon the subject around which the brittle thread of reason was broken, our skill is at fault, and fails us when we attempt to classify the causes, or speak with accuracy of a general origin of mental disease. Each case is so peculiar, it furnishes a law for itself.

In the tragedy of Hamlet it has long been a question among critics whether the great master intends to portray actual or assumed madness. Soon after seeing his father's ghost, we find him swearing his friend Horatio to silence and secresy; intimating his intention "to put an antic disposition on," the better to cover his proceedings. Directly we hear him lamenting his feebleness and lack of spirit in such a style, as convinces us of the deep melancholy that has settled on his mind, and darkened his prospects. He is called to a mighty work, and feels himself incompetent to the task. His nature is noble; he has been accustomed to believe in the sincerity of his companions, and to trust the integrity of the king. He has been surrounded from infancy with flatterers, and those who have courted him as the heir apparent to the crown. He has yielded himself to the protestations of friendship and to the soft, winning accents of tenderness and love. The gaieties of life have thrown a charm around him, and his yputh has passed away like the sweet influences of spring, the bloom and beauty of the year. He has not known .disappointment, nor anticipated danger ; the smooth current of his being has flowed like the river.

From such a life he is suddenly aroused to new thoughts. The death of his father was not natural—there was a strangeness about the circumstances, a solemn show of grief, a haste to close over the grave, and a grasping of the crown that threw a shadow and a doubt over him that wore it. There are no witnesses to the deed— the act was done in silence. No eye saw it, and no tongue has spoken of it. But it was a bloody deed, and cries for vengeance. The ghost of the murdered man cannot rest in his grave, but wakes to walk the earth at night, and whisper of the foul treason; how he was cut off in the blossom of his sin, and sent Xo his account with all his imperfections on his head,

"Unliousel'd, disappointed, unaneled."

The manner of the murder is known c Hamlet is commissioned to reveti^:: most foul and unnatural crime. H« forth he is a new man; the pleasure life pall on his taste, and the objects a have occupied his attention hare 1changed, as by the touch of magic i the veriest baubles. His deep spirit k been stirred within him, and one p* passion controls and masters every tL' yjlt His mind is unnaturally active, but k purposes are weak, and dispose tk • meditation. He believes, and y« > doubts, and so devises a scheme to;~ the conscience of the king, and »*« himself that he is not beguiled br li devil; for he is still uncertain about ti character of the fearful and dread apps tion. In this state of suspense, everriii becomes suspicious and questionable." world is not what it used to be. Him contemplates suicide, and runs over e i mind the prospects of a future life, a sleep of death, the dread of sometBi after death, the clouds and darkness 4 hang over the undiscovered future, i then glances at the evils of the pnsa life, multiplies them, and magnifies

"The scorns of lime The oppressor's wrong, the proud muTi <*

tumely, The pangs of despised love, the law* oWs;The insolence of office, and the spurn? That patient merit of the unworthy take*.

By-and-by in his interview with bis » ther, he undertakes to speak to her of k crimes, grows warm with the theme, o!i,! words of burning sarcasm, bitter bsw terrible and scathing rebuke. When in :i very height of his passion and fiery decs' ation, his father's ghost again ap[»v charging him, "Do not forget. This visitation

Is but to wliPt thy almost blunted pnrpwf The mother observes his manner as be & tens to the strange visitor, and questrt him, that he bends his eye on vacancy.!holds discourse with the incorporeaic and calls his vision, the very coinage of a brain, an ecstasy. To this he indigo** 1 replies:


My pulse, as yours, doth temperatoly kecp'^ And makes as healthful music. It is oot &*

ness That I have uttered : bring me to the t»' And I the matter will reword, which mac**rould gambol from. Mother, for love of grace, \.y not that flattering unction to your soul sat not your tresspass,but my madness speaks.'

He is by turns desponding and energetic. rhen alone, he seems to question the iurce of his information, and wonder hether he is not acting under the instiition of some dark and mysterious agency. ''hen in the presence of his mother or the ng, no doubt any longer lingers about is mind. The enormity of the crime one impresses him; his speech becomes apassioned, and he grows impatient of slay; but his stormy zeal seems to vent self in vigorous and violent language, and ssolution dies the moment he is left alone. » speech, like all madmen of his mind and >mperament, he is perfectly terrible, but i action as weak and unsteady as a child, here is method in his madness, and he ppears to act with a preconceived design; ut for all that there is a fickleness and resolution about him, and a wildness that *sts suspicion over his whole character, nd leaves us at times in doubt whether re are listening to the insane ravings of a ladman possessed of a strange and mysjrious plot, or following the course of an ljured prince who seeks redress of a wrong eyond the power of the law, and justice pon the head that wears the crown.

We had intended to inquire somewhat arefully into the nature of insanity, the ondition of mind, and real ability of the nsane. But our limits on this occasion orbid us to do more than simply refer to he subject; and point out the fact that .mong the insane, there are but few, not nore, perhaps, than one in a hundred, vho are totally insane, so that a jury might vith propriety pronounce them incapable if distinguishing between right and wrong. Host of those confined in our asylums are vhat we commonly call monomaniacs— .heir insanity being connected with particuar subjects. They are insane on religious questions, on money matters, love affairs, ind schemes of speculation ; from sickness, disease of the brain, loss of friends, and a thousand other causes, some of 'which we ire acquainted with, while others escape observation.

At present we confine our attention to the legal and moral responsibilities of the

nsane. And here, if we mistake not, had no rule ever been adopted, and the ques

tion were now for the first time presented whether the law should make any distinction in its treatment of the insane, between what is termed partial and total insanity, there would, we apprehend, be but one opinion. The impossibility of drawing the line between them, would alone be sufficient to demonstrate its impolicy, if not injustice. Besides, on a matter of so much moment and practical importance, a rule that is to be enforced, ought to be clearly drawn ; so that the distinction need not be left to the jury to make, according as their prejudices or the circumstances of the case may incline. The language of the law should be clear and definite, such as may not be misunderstood by judge or jury. As the rule now stands, the administration of it, is exceedingly difficult; it is plain enough theoretically, but practically, infinitely difficult to be applied. The witness shows the conduct of the prisoner to be insane; the judge declares that if he be so insane as not to know what is right, he cannot be convicted of crime. Here the jury take the case with almost legislative powers, and set themselves to inquire about the prisoner's capacity to distinguish between good and evil—an inquiry where insanity is shown, involving difficulties to the jury and dangers to the citizen, to which neither should be subjected under wise and just laws.

Now under the old principle, as laid down by the early writers, it is quite possible that the law be rigidly enforced while the most monstrous injustice is perpetrated; and this fact alone demonstrates the propriety of such an amendment as will forever render it impossible to commit so grievous a wrong in the sacred name of justice. Under the present decisions of our courts, they are understood to hold that an individual may be insane in respect to money affairs, and still capable of committing the crime of murder or arson ; and so of all monomaniacs. On the immediate subject of their delusion, they are considered moral agents; on all others they are held to a strict accountability. The man I saw in the asylum at Utica, who considered himself the great financial agent of the state, controlling the operations of Wall street, and the slightest transactions in the market, coining gold and silver, and sending them forth as a convenient currency for the accommodation of community—that man, under the legal rule, would not, perhaps, be deemed capable of theft or robbery. The particular nature of his delusion would render it impossible. Not so in reference to other subjects. True, it is thought by some that such an unsoundness destroys the idea of moral responsibility. The law, however, is more rigid and stoical; it holds there may be insanity and a moral sense still remaining in the mind with a responsible judgment; and makes the circumstances of each particular case determine whether the moral sense be entirely destroyed, or only affected by the general unsoundness. If the individual labor under a single delusion that will not yield to evidence, and remain otherwise sane; the philosophy of the law, as at present expounded, assumes that upon questions in which the delusive ideas are not necessarily involved, they will have no influence upon the mind. So that if there remain the bare knowledge of right and wrong, the person is capable of committing crime, no matter how strange and absurd may be the action of his passions.

The man, Mr. Erskine, mentioned in the Hadfield trial, who believed himself the Christ, evidently could distinguish right and wrong. His standing a severe crossexamination so long, baffling the utmost skill of counsel, as well as his complaints against the committee of his estate, showed his sense of justice, and that he appreciated, to some extent, his own rights and relations to others. But for all that, who would think of holding him capable of crime? He really believes himself the Saviour of mankind, and as such empowered to forgive sins. Shall such a man be punished for the dreamy speculations and uncertain action of a shattered intellect? It would be a monstrous doctrine to maintain, and still more monstrous to enforce. And yet, under the rule, the jury must either make the law what the justice of the case requires, and thereby liberally construe the oath they take, to render a verdict according to the evidence, into a general obligation to do what is right in the particular case; or they must find the unfortunate man guilty of a crime at which nature shudders.

The true rule, it should seem, would

hold that if a man be insane, the law osp to regard him as an infant, incapable c crime. It should not be a quest whether he knows right from wrong, b* whether he be sane or not. For if he V a monomaniac, he should not be puuKfei even though a jury be able to say. apt their oath, that he knew the act be f« formed was wrong. The associ*tkt i ideas in the mind of the insane, is too «&• tie for our comprehension, and the mi* tery of his motive too profound for « investigation. We assume to punish gnbecause we understand what consutci crime in the case of a sane man; po*r=ing, as we do, his thoughts and fetkrwith enough of his motives to enable fc i pronounce upon his conduct. But ra respect to the insane, who knows the opeations of his mind, or what dark po«r reigns over him? Who can enter into k» spirit, or explore the labyrinth of bis Econceivable thoughts? Who can bewnr so like him as to take upon himself tie wj feeling of insanity, and understand bio » we understand each other? We are B«b of us able to do so. Would it not thee !* modest in us to waive a principle of la implying such knowledge.

In children we frequently discern (* think we do) a knowledge of right td wrong long before any man of sane jfl&lment would think of holding them resp** ble for crime. The moral sense seem* u grow with the faculties. It is at fint foble, its existence barely appearing to<* observation. Gradually it becomes stroac er, as the mind itself approaches the «t* ure of manhood; so that the time »ba it assumes the guidance of conduct,*^ the child becomes capable of conu»d»C guilt, is always doubtful and difficult» fix; depending, as it does, so directly uf« the mental growth, the complete and bsmonious development of each attribute u& quality of mind. The moral sense—*t* is it indeed in any case but the simp!* judgment of a mind in which the iDitUrf and sentiments unite in healthy acOTitj ■ As we speak of it sometimes, a stranger» the common phraseology would thint &-• talking of some imaginary being above id beyond us; when, in reality, we mean1' discuss simply the mind's capacity of f«' ing and acting rightly ; a capacity deptwi ing equally upon the natural action of ti(

« AnteriorContinuar »