Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/323

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303
A STUDY OF SUICIDE.

absolutism, which, in its newest form, insists that the individual exists for the state; and altruism, which, when put forward as an absolute dogma, is as anti-social as selfishness. These all are only the latest forms of the devices by which some men live at the expense of others. In their essence and principle they are as old as history, and not even the device of making the victims vote away their own liberty, apparently of their own free will, because they think they ought to do so, has anything new in it.


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A STUDY OF SUICIDE.

By CHARLES W. PILGRIM, M.D.

AS the love of life is generally acknowledged to be the strongest instinct of the human mind, it is but natural that the subject of voluntary death should have attracted, at all times, a great amount of attention from moralists and sociologists.

Some of the noblest men and women of ancient times advocated and practiced self-destruction, and the frequency of the act in our own day demonstrates that the fear of death is by no means general. Prof. Mayer, of Paris, in a lecture on this subject, declared that every one of his hearers had, at some time, thought favorably of committing the deed. He challenged contradiction, but no one responded.

This longing for "restful death," which comes to nearly all of us sooner or later, can usually be resisted; but often the desire is so great that the will is not strong enough to overcome it, and another name is added to the long list of suicides which statistics show us is increasing with terrible rapidity.

Very exhaustive statistics in regard to this subject have been compiled by Profs. Bertillion and Morselli, and they both arrive at about the same conclusions. Taking each million of inhabitants, the following results were obtained: In Austria the number was increased between 1860 and 1878 by from 70 to 122 annually; in Prussia, between 1820 and 1878, by from 71 to 133; in the smaller German states, between 1835 and 1878, by from 117 to 289; in France, between 1827 and 1877, by from 52 to 149, the greater proportion being in the larger cities. Peasants rarely commit suicide, statistics showing that in Belgium, where laborers can generally find employment, the increase between 1831 and 1876 was only from 39 to 68. In Sweden and Norway about the same result was obtained, viz., an increase from 39 to 80 per year during the same period. Italy, Spain, and Ireland show the lowest number, the increase between 1864 and 1878 being only from 28 to 35 in the former, while in Spain and Ireland it was still less, the latter show-