Charles Richmond Henderson.

Introduction to the study of the dependent, defective, and delinquent classes, and of their social treatment online

. (page 2 of 35)
Online LibraryCharles Richmond HendersonIntroduction to the study of the dependent, defective, and delinquent classes, and of their social treatment → online text (page 2 of 35)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

only when want touches suffering. Where the climate is warm
pauperism is a lighter burden, because the demand for clothing,
housing, and food is less pressing. Where the standard of com-
fort is high, on the contrary, and wealth is diffused, and charity
is popular, the signs of misery which elicit help need not be so
tragical and sensational, for even discomfort excites pity.

Dependence on the community is determined largely by the
stage of social organization. Under the ancient conditions of
slavery and serfdom the laborer was cared for by his owner and
the serf by his lord. It is sometimes said, with truth and bitter-
ness, that the capitalist cares for his machines and his horses,
but not for his human agents of production, the wage-earners.
There is occasional justice in the taunt and complaint. The
rich man's stables are frequently finer than the dwellings of his
employees. But part of this misery of the poor is an accompani-
ment of the modern regime of personal freedom; we live under
a system of nominal free contracts, and are on the way upward to
a condition of entirely free contracts. This new and higher
position brings new perils, and the sufferings which attend re-
adjustments. But freedom is an advance on slavery and serfdom,
as manhood, with all its cares, is above infancy and youth.

In Scotland, so long as there was a clan organization, a national
poor law had but limited value and application. But when the
clan dissolved and strangers became citizens, and there was no
sense of obligation of relatives to support them, the need of legal
provision came to be felt, and the poor law was introduced.

lo The Phenomena of Dependence.

In all parts of the world, from early ages, there has been some
social provision for the weak and dependent, if ever so meagre
and inadequate. But communit)' responsibility, in the political
sense, is a comparatively late phase of civilization. In tribal
organization only the members of the tribe feel under obligation
to help; but under modern political organization each member
of the state is under obligations of law to all others, and the
state recognizes the claim of each citizen to protection, help,
and support. In a period of transition, the readjustment causes
much suffering and loss, as we see among the negroes of the
South. The old forms of control and assistance are dead, and
the new forms are not yet born. But the higher will come in
due time.

All human beings are dependent on parents in infancy, and
helplessness is natural to the babe. But the children of self-
supporting families are not wards of the community. In a cer-
tain sense, the inhabitants of a modern commonwealth are so
related as to need each other far more than men at barbarian
levels of culture. Increased unlikeness of parts implies great de-
pendence of parts. The savage makes all the coarse articles his
few and simple wants require, but the civilized artisan makes one
article, and looks to all the world for the other objects of satis-
faction. Not all the poor are dependents, and poverty is a merely
relative matter. A poor Irishman would be counted rich in
Patagonia. Dependence admits degrees and shades off upward
into simple misfortune and downward into abject beggary or
crime. In its extreme form we have pauperism, a word which
carries with it a suggestion of weakness, inferiority, and reproach.
The typical "pauper" is a social parasite, who attaches himself
to others, and, by living at their expense, suffers loss of energy
and ability by disease and atrophy. Pauperism at this stage is
a loathsome moral disease, more difficult to cure than crime.

There is solidarity, organic connection, between dependents
and delinquents. They cannot be studied or treated as if they
belonged in compartments separated by impervious walls. Very

The Problem Stated. 1 1

often a single family will impose on society the burden of iil-
born and badly trained children, who will be dispersed in later
years among dependents, defectives, and delinquents. The most
feeble members will drift into asylums for incurables; the
women will recruit the army of outcasts; the men will swell the
ranks of vagabonds and thieves. Those who reach old age will
hide in the shelter of the county poorhouse.



Defect is an incident of evolution. Assuming, at least hypo-
thetically, that all life is continuous in one system of related
beings, we may reason from the phenomena of plant and animal
life to the life of human beings, so far as they have vital quali-
ties in common. Having to account for inherited and acquired
defect in the physical and psychical natures of men, we may learn
much to the purpose from a study of injury, defective nutrition,
transmission of qualities, variation and selection in the science
of biology. The biologist prepares part of the data for sociology.

We may make painless experiments with all kinds of plants and
animals to discover the effects of changes in light, temperature,
position, chemical reactions, electricity, and food on the indi-
vidual in its development from the germ. The general laws of
heredity and nurture move upward through all strata of living
creatures to the highest. Even where a degree of pain is neces-
sarily inflicted, if the experiments are regulated by intelligence
and humanity, the results justify the cost, since not only men,
but also lower animals, share in the advantages of advancing
science. The veterinary surgeon is as dependent on the revela-
tions of vivisection as the family physician and teacher. Hun-
dreds of thousands of horses, cattle, and pets are saved from pain
and disease in consequence of the vicarious sufferings endured
by a few sentient creatures in the laboratories of competent
experimenters. There is no excuse for tyros and bunglers who
hack at random, without guidance or purpose, into quivering flesh.

It is in the laboratory that we discover the conditions which
cause arrested development of the central nervous system,


Inferior and Antisocial Elements. 13

deformity, disease, and the ways of transmitting characters to
posterity. Comte has shown how closely biology and sociology
are related in this enterprise.

" But we saw, in our survey of biology, that pathological cases are the true
scientific equivalents of pure experimentation. The same reasons apply, with
even more force, to sociological researches. In them, pathological analysis
consists in the examination of cases, unhappily too common, in which the
natural laws, either of harmony or succession, are disturbed by any causes,
special or general, accidental or transient. These disturbances are, in the
social body, exactly analogous to diseases in the individual organism. In both
cases it is a noble use of our reason to discover the real laws of our nature,
individual or social, by the analysis of its sufferings."

The range of experiment is much wider than is sometimes
represented. It might be possible to determine something of
the relative importance of heredity and culture by studying a
series of infants whose parentage is known to be defective, but
who have been transplanted to good family surroundings. But
it is very difficult to follow such adopted children, because it is
ordinarily best for all parties to hide the past and give the child
the advantage of the new start and name. And furthermore,
defective children owe part of their inferiority to early influence
as well as to inherited qualities.

"Galton and others have studied a large number of successful
and of inferior individuals with a view to discovering the causes
which led to their marked characteristics. Here, again, it is
extremely difficult to isolate the causes and to determine which
are most significant.

Dugdale and McCulloch followed down the line of degraded
families, in all their intermarriages, for several generations, and
sought to define the part played by heredity and education.
Even here the results are confused.

But when we turn to the studies of biologists the conditions
are far more favorable to definite conclusions, because they have
before them all the field of plant and animal life ; they can vary
conditions at will; and they can submit each object to experi-

14 The Phenomena of Dependence.

ment under control. Social experience can never be quite equal
to scientific experiment, because we are ordinarily prohibited by
humane sentiments and interests from subjecting human beings
to any conditions which must inevitably injure them in health
or character. All men are living beings, and so far come under
the laws of life in general. We here call attention to some of
the results of biology so far as they illuminate our problem and
help us account for defect and criminal disposition.

1. Variation. — The defects of inferior individuals are
explained by all the facts which account for variation, since
defectives are departures from a normal type. From the moment
of conception to the end of life there is a play of millions of
forces acting upon the growing and living creature, and tending
to produce great variety of form, degrees of energy, power of
resistance, and faculty for adaptation. All differences from
parents are due to variation, and from this origin spring all that
is new, and not due to ancestors, whether better or worse. Here
lies the possibility of advance and also of degeneration.

The causes of variation may be internal and spontaneous,
without any known external explanation of the difference. But
external conditions are also at work, as parasites, microbes, cli-
mate, food, heat, light. The new elements are combined in
the offspring of parents, and the result is a new structure.

In this process of variation it will be found that some indi-
viduals are superior, and others inferior, to the average. This
is the beginning of the abnormal, the monstrous, the undeveloped,
the feeble, the perverted. It is in this investigation of the causes
of variation that we must seek for the physical factors which
influence or determine the traits which are handed down, and
either reduced or aggravated in the process of transmission.

2. Transmission. — Common and scientific observation reveal
a tendency to transmit the defects of parents to their offspring,
and this helps to explain the nature of paupers and criminals.

One of the most conspicuous illustrations of certain transmis-
sion of traits is seen in the likeness of members of races. The

Inferior and Antisocial Elements. 15

pictures and statues and carved figures of ancient Chaldea, Egypt,
and Assyria, on monuments and in graves, show how persistent
are race types. Plants, animals, and men are so alike that
descendants resemble their progenitors of five thousand years
ago. In the study of inferior types, allowance must be made for
race traits. The pointed head, heavy jaw, thick lips, and woolly
hair of a negro are normal with him; but these features if seen
in any high degree in an Aryan would be monstrous. In investi-
gations this must be borne in mind, and the normal type of each
race must be the standard.

Innate characteristics are those which inhere from conception
in the fecundated ovum and its products. Such characteristics
are, in general, transmissible, but their actual transmission
depends on many factors, as crossing and external conditions.
Structure is thus handed down from father to son, as stature,
form, color of skin and hair. The functions of the body are
inherited, as timbre of voice, manner of walking, gestures,
longevity, feebleness. The physical basis influences psychical
manifestations, and so there is an inheritance of tastes, habits,
and disposition. But as to these latter it is difficult to dis-
tinguish between heredity and imitation of parents.

Diseases and monstrosities are directly transmitted, but again
we must seek to distinguish from inheritance the effects of out-
ward conditions, infection, and contagion subsequent to con-
ception. Mental diseases are frequently the direct result of an
inherited defect in nervous structure, while syphilis seems to be
due to the transmission of specific microbes. These examples
will illustrate the two different modes of transmission. It
is questioned among medical men whether the bacillus of
tuberculosis is, in the biological sense, transmitted.

Passing to the inheritance of acquired characteristics, we
enter a controversy whose determination lies with biologists.
Lamarckism is the theory that traits acquired are inherited by
offspring, so that each new generation starts with the results of
past experience and training, or of vice and ignorance, organized

1 6 The Phenomena of Dependence.

in the physical structure of infants. Neo- Darwinians claim that
the effects of acquired traits disappear with the individual, and
that natural selection must be taken to explain adaptation, evo-
lution, and regression; and that improvements must be gained
only by selection, never by education. If acquired characters
are transmitted, then we may hopefully employ education, not
only to influence the individual, but also to improve his progeny
and descendants. Practically, our methods are not essentially
determined by this controverted doctrine. We may employ time
and energy on either theory in the use of both education and

The trait generally appears at about the same age in offspring
and parent. For example, a nervous disease or an affection of
the alimentary canal which attacked a parent at the fortieth year,
is likely to trouble the child at the same period of life. In the
adoption of foundlings or other children of unknown parentage,
we cannot foretell whether a disease or defect which is masked
in youth may not break forth at a later stage of development.

Traits are not always inherited under the exact form shown by
parents, and there is a transformation of defects. An epileptic
may become parent of a maniac; an insane mother may have a
hysterical daughter; simple nervousness and excessive irritability
in the parent appears as chorea or insanity in the offspring; the
inebriate's child becomes an idiot, dies of consumption, or at
puberty is abandoned to unbridled lust.

Toxic substances introduced into the organism of parents
influence the child. This is especially true of alcohol. The
offspring of alcoholics are often maniacs or epileptics. The
drunkard himself may cease to sow his wild oats and reform, and
afterward enjoy a long and comfortable life; and yet some of his
children may reap of his sowing in lingering disease or vicious
character. Transitory states of intoxication do not seem so
important as continual subjection to the influence of poisonous
liquors, and consequent chronic deterioration of nervous

Inferior and Antisocial Elements. 17

The doctrine of atavism plays a part in the discussion of
defect and criminality. Traits of body and mind appear in a
contemporary family which did not manifest themselves in the
parents. Characteristics may lie hidden for two or more genera-
tions and then suddenly come to light, as if a river should dis-
appear in the sand, flow a long distance under the surface, and
emerge at a lower level with great force and volume. It may be
that the development of the individual is arrested in the embryo,
at a stage somewhat corresponding to the form of an inferior
animal, so that the mental processes exhibit some of the marks
of an inferior race of remote ancestors, or even of irrational
animals. In such cases the person fails to make his adjustment
to the social life of this advanced age.

It is commonly believed by stock breeders and gardeners that
"close breeding" gradually tends to the production of inferior
animals or plants, so that frequent crossing with new blood, or
change of seed, is advised. The biological problem is involved
in the question of the effect of marriage of near relations. It is
doubtful whether the marriage of healthy cousins is unfavorable
to offspring, but there is a general agreement that diseases and
weaknesses are intensified by such marriages. Thus deaf mutism,
consumption, and feeble-mindedness are aggravated when per-
sons near of kin, and burdened with the same defects, are

3. The Struggle for Life. — This subject must be studied in
connection with variation and heredity. The inferior variant
enters by the gate of birth into a scene of conflict and effort
where power is tested, weakness discovered, and the adapted
survive. The botanist and zoologist discover this law of life
running upward through all orders of existence, and afhrm that
humanity is not exempt. Urged by the two primitive impulses
of hunger and love, men, like all living beings, seek nature's
ends of self-preservation and propagation. Nature does not yield
the means of existence without toils and pains. If any protected
lives are supported without labor of their own, it is as parasites

1 8 The Phenomena of Dependence.

who feed upon the fruits of the labor of others, or as minors who
will some day do their part.

There are many destructive natural agencies, as malaria,
intense cold or heat, fire, flood, and tempest, which make life
difficult. Poisonous and bloodthirsty beasts compete with man.
As population multiplies on certain desirable areas of the limited
earth surface, the groups and nations of men come into conflict
over the possession of pasturage, tillable lands, or markets for
manufactured goods. Laborers compete with each other for the
opportunity to earn wages, the means of satisfying the demands
of hunger, love, and higher wants. Artisan bids against artisan,
manager against manager, salesman against salesman, physician
against physician.

The human struggle has human characteristics. It is not
merely for subsistence, but for distinction, honor, rank, control,
power, elegance, comfort, knowledge. Man has attained keener
and larger intellectual powers, fights with more powerful weapons.
Civilization modifies the agencies and methods of conflict, but
does not bring it to an end.

The form of this struggle for life is modified by improvements,
inventions, and industrial organization. The taste of men
becomes more severe, and coarse textiles, which were satisfactory
to barbarous peoples or to the untaught, are refused by fashion.
In many occupations more swift, accurate, and sustained work
is demanded. The engineer and conductor who succeed the
cart driver and coachman require a higher form of training.
Complicated machinery displaces simple tools, and asks more
thought power. While some processes have been simplified, on
the whole inferiority is put to greater strain. Fewer places are
left for the half capable.

4. The Issue of this Struggle. — This age-long contest for
food and honor has compelled invention, produced the arts, and
trained selected men. But there is a nether aspect which con-
cerns us here, the production and fate of the inferior variant,
sometimes called the degenerate. With arrest of development

Inferior and Antisocial Elements. 19

and increased liability to disease, with a nervous system which
has not attained normal power of functioning, go corresponding
defects of mental and moral life.

What is the fate of these defective persons? Millions of them
perish in infancy or at the first stress of life. The tendency of
the unfit is toward extinction. Some crowd inferior places,
do menial and unpleasant work at low wages, as the price of
existence. Others are parasitic and are supported by their fami-
lies or at public expense. The employer of labor rejects many
as unemployable. The teachers in public schools find them slow,
stupid, feeble-minded in all degrees. The legislator confronts
them with poor laws and with criminal statutes or prisons.

But this same social evolution has produced sympathy or
altruism. The origin of a disposition to care for the weak is
ancient and deep as parenthood. In human life its beginning
was in the maternal instinct, without which the race would perish
in the helplessness of infancy. The struggle for self-preservation
is modified by race feelings. In all nations these race-preserv-
ing sympathies have found expression, at first in the clan or tribe,
later in the state, finally in a philanthropy which overleaps the
narrow limits of caste and sect, and regards man as man. These
sympathies have created institutions, customs of mercy, having
for their purpose the general welfare, the correction of evil,
the relief of misery, the good of the degraded, the progress of

5. The Spiritual Environment. — To prevent misunderstanding
we must distinctly bear in mind that the external world of nature
and material human works is not the entire environment of each
man, nor the most important part of it. The ideas, beliefs,
hopes, and fears which rule the psychical life are in the air, and
all about us. Beliefs are as real as habitat and climate, food
and housing. There will be few paupers, beggars, and criminals
in proportion as the beliefs of the people are favorable to social
morality. Thomas Chalmers proudly used the poor Scotch peas-
ants as illustrations of the triumph of self-control among humble

20 1 he Phenomena of Dependence.

people who had pure ideals, thrift, and independence of spirit.
The standard of life is a social psychical fact. It works by
suggestion, imitation, fashion, and custom.

How far these influences of culture affect the race physically,
and thus form the material conditions of higher psychical
activities, will depend on the truth or error of the doctrine of
the heritability of acquired characteristics. But that they affect
all members of society directly there can be no question, and
there is no controversy. The psychical tradition, in books,
pictures, laws, customs, institutions, is handed down as really as
physical traits are transmitted by generation; and this spiritual
tradition acts educationally on communities most powerfully,
constantly, and with increasing momentum. It may be a meta-
phor to speak of a "spiritual inheritance," but the phrase tells a
vital truth. There are two directions given by this spiritual tra-
dition, one toward progress, and the other toward debasement
and ruin, "the environment of neglect."

6. Selection. — Our study of biological laws is not complete
without indicating the significance of selection in relation to our
subject. In the lower and earlier stages of the struggle for life,
the process of selection is purely natural, without plan or design
on the part of the participants. Without entering upon a full
description of this age-long process we may sum it up in the
sentence : At awful cost of suffering and life, there has been
a gradual elimination of the races not suited to life on this
planet, a gradual introduction of higher and nobler forms of
life, and an approximate adaptation of inferior forms to lowlier

But while this same process is carried forward in human
society, an element of prevision and provision mingles with the
struggle. Before the advent of man there was an animal instinct,
shared now by human beings, to choose the best mates and reject
the imperfect. This race-preserving and race-improving sexual
selection has played a large part in the history of our species.
The individuals which have not this instinct tend to perish with-

Inferior and Antisocial Elements. 21

out offspring, and leave those better endowed to continue the
species. But all this is at terrible cost, with many blunders.

The highest stage of selection is rational and purposeful. Men
select the finest stallions and mares, the best specimens of bulls
for breeding, the most perfect wheat grains for seed in fields
devoted to grain. More slowly and hesitatingly they have begun
to apply the same principle to marriage and the propagation of
the human species. Plato gave the hint ages ago in a Utopian
and immoral scheme; but ignorance and appetite, prejudice and
superstition, have been obstacles in the way of working out and
applying his idea in a form acceptable to Christian morality.

Purposeful selection, however, is not always made in view of
social advantage. A man may prefer a rich and neurotic wife
to a poorer woman who is strong and capable. Among ignorant
and animal-like human beings marriage is chiefly a matter of
proximity and the accident of contact; and with the very lowest
classes sexual union is blind and heedless of results.

In connection with the subject of selection must be consid-
ered the effects of methods of relief and correction. Indis-

Online LibraryCharles Richmond HendersonIntroduction to the study of the dependent, defective, and delinquent classes, and of their social treatment → online text (page 2 of 35)