« AnteriorContinuar »
ANOMALOUS STATE OF THE LAW OF LUNACY.
attempt thus made to protect the criminal, immediately rouses the public indignation. Such an excuse is not in many instances listened to, and the unfortunate medical witnesses who have been called upon to exercise an important, and often thankless duty in support of the plea, are exposed, for giving an honest expression of opinion, to the most unmeasured ridicule, and vituperation. In defending the memory of the suicide from the disgrace that would accompany a verdict of felo de se, the evidence of the medical man proving insanity is regarded with great respect and treated with profound deference; but in the effort to rescue a poor lunatic from the agonies of a painful death upon the scaffold, on evidence much stronger than was adduced before the previously mentioned court, the expert is exposed to unmitigated abuse. Instead of being considered as an angel of mercy, engaged in the exercise of a holy and righteous mission, he is viewed with suspicion, and often treated with contumely, as if he were attempting to sacrifice, instead of to save human life. Again, the attempt to prove sanity of mind and mental capacity at a Commission of Lunacy, with the object of preserving intact the liberty of the subject and establishing his right to an unfettered management of his own property, is applauded to the very echo; but the endeavour to excuse, on the plea of insanity, an act of crime consigning the unhappy wretch, alleged to be an irresponsible lunatic, to penal servitude for life, or, alas! to the hands of the public executioner, is denounced in unqualified language, as a most monstrous, unjustifiable, and iniquitous interference with the course of justice. The excuse of insanity will not, in many cases, under these circumstances, be tolerated by a portion of the press, in the slightest degree countenanced by the judge who tries the criminal, or deferred to by the jury, whose duty it is to decide the fate of the
prisoner. The public mind is violently shocked at the commission of a horrible and brutal murder. The act is viewed in the abstract as one of great and barbarous atrocity, apart altogether from all its concomitant extenuating medico-psychological considerations. The cry is raised for “vengeance !” The shout is,—“an eye for an eye!”—"a tooth for a tooth !”_"blood for blood !”; forgetting, in the paroxysm of indignant emotion, and frenzy of excited feeling, engendered by the contemplation of a dreadful violation of the majesty of the law, that justice must ever be tempered with that DIVINE MERCY which sanctifies and enshrines
“ The throned monarch better than his crown,
And is the Attribute of God Himself.”
NEGLECT OF HABITS OF SELF-INSPECTION.
The Stage of Consciousness.
If we were to closely scrutinize into the fathomless mysteries of the inner mental life, and fearlessly analyse the nature of the terrible conceptions, that occasionally throw their dark phantasmal shade across the anxious and troubled breast, what a melancholy, degrading, and profoundly humiliating revelation most men would have to make, of the dark corners, secret recesses, and hidden crevices of the human heart! If this self-examination
were faithfully, and honestly executed, it would cause the best and fairest of God's creatures to shudder with terror at the possibility of such ideas ever intruding into the soul's solemn sanctuary.
A neglect of the practice of self-inspection and self-interrogation, is said to be one of the most serious imperfections, moral and intellectual, of the present system of mental discipline, and education. The defect is not confined, it is alleged, to listless, vacant persons, who permit life to glide over them amidst frivolities, and waking dreams, but is perceived among those who intensely, and actively, employ themselves with objects external to themselves. An able moral philosopher observes, when alluding to this subject : “ that, after a certain period of life, few have the hardihood sternly to look within. For a high degree of moral courage is required to face the disclosure which awaits the mind, when it is thus turned inwards upon itself; a disclosure, it may be, of the result of years and years that have passed over it in listless inactivity, which yields nothing to reflection but an empty void; or in the eager pursuit of objects which are seen to be worthless; or in the acquirement of habits which are felt to be destructive of the health of the mind; the disclosure, it may be, of important duties neglected, and important pursuits overlooked, and the conviction that life is drawing to a close, while its great business is yet to begin. Few have moral courage to meet this disclosure; and, when it is met with an attention in some degree adequate to its supreme interest, the impressions which it yields are encountered by the force of confirmed moral habits, which seem to claim every faculty and feeling of the mind as theirs by hopeless bondage. Hence the supreme importance of cultivating in early life the habit of looking
Moral philosophers, intimately acquainted with the anatomy of the human heart, have often asked, who has not, occasionally, had a demon pursuing with remorseless impetuosity his every footstep, suggesting to his ever active, and often morbidly disturbed and perverted imagination, the commission of some dark deed of crime, from the contemplation of which he has at the time shrunk back aghast with horror? What mind is alleged to be so pure and untainted, that has not been disposed to yield, when the reason and moral sense have, alas! been transiently paralyzed, and God's grace ceases to influence the heart, to the seduction of impure thought, lingered with apparent pleasure on the contemplation of physically unchaste images, or delighted in a fascinating dalliance with criminal thoughts? Who has not conceived how easily he might, with his own hand, “shuffle off this mortal coil,” and penetrate into the dark and mysterious secrets of futurity? What heart has been, at all times, free from malevolent passion, revengeful emotion, lustful feeling, unnatural, and, alas ! devilish impulses? Is not every bosom polluted by a dark, leprous spot, corroding ulcer, or portion of moral gangrene? Does there not cling to every mind some melancholy reminiscence of the past, which throws, at times, a sombre tinge over the chequered path of life? We may flatter our pharisaical vanity and human pride, by affirming that we are exempt from these melancholy conditions of moral suffering, and sad states of mental infirmity, but, alas ! we should be belying human nature if we were to ignore the existence of such, thank God, only temporary, paroxysmal, and evanescent conditions within ; the practice of rigidly questioning ourselves as to what we are, and what we are doing,—what are our leading pursuits, and what our mental habits; what are our plans and prospects for life, and what influence over the whole of our moral discipline have the solemn realities of a life which is to come.”—Dr. Abercrombie on the “ Culture and Discipline of the Mind."
MYSTERIES OF THE INNER MENTAL LIFE.
of unhealthy thought, and abnormal phases of passion, which, occasionally, have been known to cast their withering influence, and death-like shadow over the mind, blighting, saddening, and often crushing the best, kindest, and noblest of human hearts.
“Who can tell,” says a learned divine, “all the windings, turnings, depths, hollowness, and dark corners of the mind of man? He who enters upon this scrutiny, enters into a labyrinth or a wilderness, where he has no guide but chance or industry to direct his inquiries, or to put an end to his search, It is a wilderness in which a man may wander more than forty years, and through which few have passed to the promised land.”*
Among the obscure, and, as yet, inexplicable phenomena of disordered intellect, stands prominently forward a condition, incipient phase, or pre-existing abnormal state, in which the patient (long before he becomes, or is considered actually insane) is fully sensible, painfully, keenly, and exquisitely conscious of the predominance of certain morbid, and unnatural states of emotion, idea, and impulse.
For a considerable period before the mind has lost its equilibrium, or is appreciably disordered, the patient admits that he is under the influence of certain vague apprehensions, undefinable misgivings, and anxious suspicions, as to the sane character of his emotions, healthy condition of his ideas, and normal state of his instincts. He detects himself, when unobserved, occasionally asking, can my impressions be healthy ? good reason for my entertaining these strange and singular feelings? Why am I adverse to this person's presence, and why do I feel a repugnance to, and shun the society of that individual ? Am I in a sound state of mind? Are unnatural ideas, and strange impulses like
Is there any
* Dr. South.