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child to the world, and all the perils and dangers of infancy and childhood from the many infantile diseases and accidents, it is not difficult to conclude that a large percentage of idiocy is due not to a bad heredity, but to some other condition, which does not make the previous life of the parents or ancestry responsible for the result. It is claimed by some observers that fully 50 per cent. can be traced to actual disease. In 848 cases examined at the Iowa institution, I find but 45 per cent. of the whole in which there is one or more of the causes given under heredity, leaving 55 per cent. to be accounted for by unknown or accidental causes.
Among the number collected in our institutions will be found those whose mental feebleness is that of dementia, not amentia.
In dealing with preventative measures, we encounter an intricate network of classes and conditions, so interwoven that they are inseparably connected. To follow out these various ramifications, for the purpose of formulating plans for prevention, is confusing, not to say discouraging; and it is only by patient research and analysis of the various defective and deficient classes that a working basis can be reached. Difficulties have always beset the paths of those engaged in problems for social reforms, but persistency and concerted action will eventually prevail. As an illustration, we may refer to progress made in preventive medicine, through hygiene and sanitation, so vigorously presented and insisted upon by the medical profession, accepted and forced upon the public by government and municipal authorities, intercepting and swinging back the pendulum of life in favor of longevity.
What has been accomplished in the past few years relative to prevention of disease far transcends what would have been regarded, even a quarter of a century ago, as the wildest and most impossible speculation. In the light of modern discoveries, diseases that previously baffled medical skill can no longer be considered incurable. The science of pathological treatment is reaching out in discovery in all directions. The same should be practically true in lines of preventing degeneracy.
The enormity of the evils of degeneracy, the necessity for measures to control them, and the fact that they can be controlled, in a degree, are beginning to dawn upon the public, which is now in a receptive condition and awaiting further authentic light.
1. Provision and permanent detention of all classes of degenerates. 2. Judicious legislation to sustain and enforce methods of prevention.
How is this to be accomplished? The great weapon in combating any evil is education. For any law, written or unwritten, to be effective, it must have the support of the general public; and, before this can be obtained, the need of it must be clearly demonstrated and impressed.
It is not possible for the masses to become familiar with conditions in the aggregate. Their opportunities for observation are circumscribed. It is left for the scientists in sociological studies to collect and disseminate information, enlisting first the co-operation of men in public trust and the professions, they in turn to educate others, until the public as a whole unites to bring about and support reforms. Politicians fill most of the public offices, but men of science are the rulers of the civilized world. It has been said: "Who has not had, time and again, the favorable moment when, as a friend, teacher, medical attendant, or spiritual adviser, a word from us would have fallen upon receptive soil and borne fruit a thousand years hence? Every parent should be carefully instructed in the peculiarities and tendencies of the laws of inheritance. Parents should be taught to consider the special traits of their offspring, and how best to encourage those desirable from the point of view of brain stability, and how to diminish the strength and influence of those unfavorable to such stability. Every member of society should know what combination of individual characteristics is most conducive to the elevation and strengthening of the human organization of offspring. Teachers, ministers, philanthropists, and especially physicians, will find many channels open, in their special fields of work, through which their influence can flow, with educating and ennobling power." We cannot now help the follies of our ancestors, but we can modify and prevent their mistakes recurring. Without such methods of education, adequate measures of prevention cannot be expected.
Sanitary Marriages.— The attention bestowed to careful breeding of domestic animals has long been noticed as compared with the indifference shown by our marriage customs; but it is gratifying to note that medical societies and philanthropic organizations are generally recommending more stringent laws regulating marriages in the human family, indicating that the trend of public opinion is looking
to this as one means of preventing unstable offspring. While it is the opinion of observing people that measures should be taken to regulate the nuptial vows, the public generally is not ready to demand it; and, until it is educated to comprehend the magnitude of the evils resulting from such marriages, any legal enactment to this effect would be inoperative. Meanwhile the law of nature silently but surely inflicts penalties upon all offenders without regard to person. Obedience to these laws brings its rewards, and disobedience its punishment. Inheritance of disease is not necessarily fatal to a long life, but faulty heredity can never be entirely overcome.
In addition to the educative channels already referred to, it occurs to me that State Boards of Charities, especially on account of their duties familiarizing them with all classes of dependants and defectives, in their several conditions, have educated and can educate the public, and impress legislative bodies with the necessity of supporting legal methods of prevention.
STATE REGULATION OF MARRIAGE.
BY MRS. KATE GANNETT WELLS, OF BOSTON, MASS.
The Church and the State are the two forces or bodies which control the solemnization and legalization of marriage. Slowly, as the authority of the Church is decreasing, so is that of the State increasing,— a result due chiefly to the recognition of heredity in its influence upon posterity and of the responsibility of the State for its dependents. Not charity, but regulation and prevention of evil, is becoming the remedial agency of the State. If the physician should have been called to a patient a hundred years before he was born, as Dr. Holmes has said, still more should the State see that no degenerates are now born, to be cared for by the future.
Yet there is no more personal domain upon which the State can enter than that of marriage. That it already has prescribed certain conditions under which wedlock can be contracted is evidenced by
its legalizing the age before which no marriage is valid, and forbidding marriage within certain degrees of consanguinity.
The doctrine of consanguinity, though based upon intuitions and upon observed facts, is an amusing and confused product of natural law, theological dogma, and ecclesiastical courts. The English Prayer Book rehearses at length the prohibited degrees, and the English Church service frankly repeats its reasons for marriage. Still its fearfulness is ignored until the child, misshapen in body or mind, is born "as a visitation of God," people used to say. Now we are learning to argue for the child's right to be well born, and for the mother's right that all births should be the result of her glad free will.
The Church, however, having published its table of degrees prohibiting marriage, which has been canonically affirmed, still disallows divorce save for one cause, and is silent regarding the birth of the defective children, who are born from discordant unions, perpetuated under the ægis of the Church.
On the other hand, the State, recognizing human frailty and physiological sequences, permits greater latitude in divorce, that children stunted in mind and body need not be born, and also has added its prohibitions in regard to marriage to those of the Church, that the State may be protected. There is, however, a wide variance, not only between the laws of different countries on this subject, but between the various parts of the United States, with which we now alone are concerned.
In most of our States, no woman can marry her lineal ancestor or descendant or her brother of the half or whole blood. The same prohibition applies conversely to a man. After such general regulations, specific ones obtain in various States. In Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Carolina, and Oregon, "no marriage can be contracted by parties nearer of kin than first cousins, computing by the rule of the civil law, whether of the whole or half blood." But first cousins are not permitted to marry in Ohio, Indiana, Nevada, Washington, Montana, where wedlock is forbidden between persons "nearer of kin than second cousins."
The question of the legitimate birth of either of the parties to a marriage or of the parent of either does not affect the prohibited degrees of consanguinity in New York, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, Kentucky, Missouri, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Dakota, Idaho, Wyoming, Alabama, Louisiana, New Mexico, and Arizona.
Again, a man may not marry his son's widow, nor a woman her daughter's husband, in nineteen States. Nor in Virginia and West Virginia can a man marry his wife's step-daughter, nor a woman her husband's step-son. Such laws have been enacted to prevent the evil results arising from intermarriages of relatives, and have been accepted by the people in good faith, who also have welcomed the regulations of the State in forbidding marriage unless the contracting parties have attained a certain age. Such legislation, presumably, is on behalf of posterity, as children born of boy and girl marriages are inferior in physique and often feeble-minded compared with those born of parents of mature age. Nevertheless, the State is wise, though illogical, in not preventing the marriage of elderly persons; for the personal equations of age vary late in life more than in early years.
In comparison with the decrees of the States concerning consanguinity and age, their laws respecting the marriage of insane and feeble-minded persons are few and insufficient. Yet the danger from the union of such persons is immediate and direct, while it is no greater infringement upon personal rights for the State to forbid such marriage than for it to prohibit cousins from marrying.
May not the explanation of the hitherto slow action of the State in regard to such regulations be related to two causes: first, to the virtual silence of the Church on this subject; second, to the old feeling that procreation was a universal right and need, with which there must be no interference?
Be this as it may, with the tardy growth of more correct ideas concerning the nature and causes of insanity, have come preventive laws against it, till now in Massachusetts, Maine, Rhode Island, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Virginia, North and South Carolina, Kentucky, Wyoming, Georgia, and Arizona, all marriages are void where one of the parties is at the time insane or an idiot. There is, however, some difficulty about the interpretation of such a statute. Is the marriage void at once, or is it good until voided? Are children born necessarily bastards because the marriage was void before their birth? Without entering upon the legal bearing of such points justly to be raised or without reflecting upon the wisdom of the statutes in Vermont, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Kansas, Nebraska, California, Oregon, Nevada, Dakota, Wyoming, Arizona, by which marriages are not voidable, in case of