Library Collections: Document: Full Text

Illustrations Of Insanity, Furnished By Letters Of The Insane

Creator: n/a
Date: April 1847
Publication: American Journal of Insanity
Source: Available at selected libraries

Next Page   All Pages 

Page 1:


A medical friend for whose opinion we have the highest regard has thus written us; "the article in your last number of the Journal of Insanity, on the correspondence of the insane, I regard as a valuable contribution to the science of pathological psychology and hope it will be continued. It is by such means that we shall make advance in this interesting subject -- the operation of the disordered mind."


This opinion coinciding with our own, induces us to insert the following letters.


The first was written by a lady who has been deranged sixteen years, and most of that time she has spent in Lunatic Asylums. She had been highly educated, and still exhibits much, and we may add, uncommon ability in music, drawing, painting, and in penmanship. She is ever ardently engaged in efforts to accomplish some particular purpose, though rarely does she adhere to one but for a few days. At the time of writing, it seems capital punishment, was the subject of her thoughts, together with peculiar notions about the virtues of salt. At other times she attributes equal value to spirits of turpentine, vinegar, &e.


State Asylum, Utica.


To his excellency, the Governor of the State of New York;


Honored Sir -- I have presumed to trouble you once before during my stay in this place, with a long communication, and I now write with some fear that you will lay this letter down, as a weariness, and more insane impertinence than such as deserving of perusal and attention, but I do urge you to read it through patiently before you pass judgment. Perhaps the Governor is not the right individual for me to address, and that my letter should be directed to the Judge of the Supreme Court. If you are any way struck with my arguments, I wish this letter might be published or sent to the President, perhaps those in authority would come to the conclusion to act upon it decisively. My object and subject, is punishment for crime, especially capital punishment, to abolish suffering unto death for any crime. St. Paul was the most zealous of all persecutors, but he was suddenly convicted by a light that shown round about him. So this letter, may, like the light from Heaven, unexpectedly influence those, that otherwise were set upon a contrary course. Let us look at the teeth of the murderer and his victim, there can be no connection or comparison between the two sets. The government shall be upon his shoulder, and while the murderer is alive he is a stronger bulwark against the like offence, than a thousand hanged criminals after death. The punishment is totally beyond the offence, in the hanging we send extravasated blood to the root of every tooth. It is life for life you say, but the death of one is unexpected without preparation, the other is premeditated, anxiety, torture, time wasted and worn out, literally the tree of knowledge in all respects. We do not live by bread alone, and the life unexpectedly taken by violence is a mite in the balance compared to the life of the man sentenced to be hung on the gallows. You must hear me this hanging or punishment by death must be done away. Two for one invariably, always the aggressor for the aggressee. These laws were made by Moses in a new country among uncivilized people, dissatisfied and quarrelsome, settling their disputes by personal conflict, wrestling with each other, and killing each other and only burying them in the sand as the story of the Israelite and Egyptian gives us to understand. We are a Christian people, bibles and schoolbooks on every table, our Sabbath day is changed from Saturday to Sunday, why not do away these old laws in a measure, or alter them to our enlightened age, we are a growing country, over a vast expanse of territory, if this sinking fund of crime and poverty is kept up we shall become worse than Russia. There is now one hundred thousand beggars in Europe, to two hundred thousand that support themselves. We cast our pearls before swine when we hang the man, and I am afraid they will turn again and rend us, by repeating the offence, as the inevitable consequence. I believe, you would find that one murder is invariably followed by another, that is punished by death. I read in the news papers that Mr. --- is reprieved to the --- of ---, the man has but fifteen days more to live, and I feel so urged and impelled by my feelings, that I asked the permission of our Principal to write to you, which was given. I would pardon the man if I was Governor, besides it is an odds if he is not crazy. You must not judge of me, and hang the crazy man, because I show so much rationality as to render offence sufficiently heinous for punishment. I am suffering under pitiful misrepresentation and unlawful authority and restraint, rest assured that I never was crazy, and, any one perjures their own conscience that affirms that I am, and yet though I have been an inmate of four asylums, I have never met the magistrate or the Christian who expressed any dissatisfaction, although no one but must be sensible that the laws of our country are outraged in my person by my being confined and forced to endure all the restraint and coercion of those called lunatics, will the law allow a citizen to be confined except for crime or lunacy? and by what authority. Governor -- I am not crazy I tell you, never was and never shall be unless injured by unlawful means and treatment, and how do you know but there are persons hung as little deserving of the punishment, as I am of being here. Are subjects of grace lunatics? I have been in a progressive state of study and conversion to divine truths for this ten years. I am no criterion to judge the insane by. Build a house for the murderer and give the man salt while he lives, by immediate application, and let this be the penalty during life, you will thus effectually expiate offence let it be of whatsoever kind it will. When Shiloh comes to him shall be the gathering of the people. This I understand to be Shiloh and the gathering of the people is salt. The man's labour is of value and if allowed communication to visitors and physicians, he would throw more light upon the effects of crime upon the mind than all that can be learnt by the inmates of an insane asylum. Confusion and every evil work, are united in the same sentence by the conjunction, and, as you will find them in like manner united in every act of life. The evil that men do live after them, such a building would be more a monument of terror than a thousand gallowses. If I was hung could I come to life again, I would assuredly repeat the offence out of revenge, whereas were I pardoned I could not but be good. The grateful incense of the pardoned man would have more of the dew of blessing in it than the extravasated blood of the suffering criminal. We can hang cats and dogs, but is immortality the end and aim of all being, to be done away with for any offence? our fine ladies have dreadful corns on their feet. Cain was assured that his life should be held sacred. I have for myself a dreadful callus spot on the ball of my foot, that I have been unable to remove for years, and it increases since I have been here to a painful degree. I should not wonder if it was the hang-mans-gallows. Build a house exclusively for those sentenced to death, treat them kindly, and the repentance of the poor sinner will be more acceptable than punishment. When Shiloh comes, give him the gathering of the people, by fresh salt applied by the hand, and it is my belief that it would more effectually restrain crime and its repetition than all the gallows in the world. I wish my letter was in time, and that I could help Mr. ---, he should find that I did know what that was, I will have mercy and not sacrifice. Heaven has golden streets, and must not a course that sinks us in irrecoverable poverty, be a wrong one? will not want and poverty invariably lead to crime? Our Bible does not in a single instance tell us to punish crime, but to repent and believe and ye shall be saved, it does not say, hang this man because he killed your brother, but it says, your force is not right, build thou the walls of Jerusalem, make your paths straight in the wilderness, this can only be done by salt, this I learn in many places. Christ says that salt will take away all offence. Job says that Leviathan puts salt upon the mire, and that we cannot come nigh him with his double bridle, this is the same as the gallows, and salt so applied would have all the effect that punishment now does. In another place it says that the Prophet is the snare of the fowler in all his ways. The snare of the fowler is salt and not bird-lime, salt will kill birds. It did seem to me before I began this letter as if I could say somewhat that would be listened to, but perhaps I am mistaken, but I do solemnly protest against hanging, it is my own individual conviction that it is irreconcilable to all benevolence, refinement and improvement. If the sinner turneth from his ways he shall live, how can he turn when he is sent out of the world. It is written that your force is not right; I am afraid you make crazy people by coming to the gallows with the man, and cursed is he that perverteth the judgment.

Next Page

Pages:  1  2  3  4  5    All Pages