Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 8.djvu/12
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
enon rather than as an accident. Those efforts which society has made to stamp out and confine this tendency to evil must, to an equal extent, spring from higher law; just as a breakwater is reared to protect an exposed harbor from the encroachments of storm and wave.
We have of late years come to look upon criminals as a special class of the community. We have come to complacently call them the "criminal class," just as we do the mercantile class or any other reputable order of men. This is so far true as to be capable of proof more by the exceptions than the rule. We have come to look upon crime as we do the typhus fever or the cholera, as prevailing mainly amid dirt and ignorance. I believe this to be true only so far as ignorance permits those good qualities in men to be undeveloped which require culture for their development; and the existence of such qualities has not as yet been demonstrated. It must be understood that while the word "ignorance" does not express a positive quantity, it yet expresses a positive quality which is true of the mass of people. This word with perfect fairness may be applied to the vast numbers which swell the aggregate of a census-table, without any qualification. I believe it can be shown that it is simply from excess in numbers that the ignorant classes furnish the recruits to the ranks of crime, and not from any tendency to crime dependent upon the negative quality of ignorance. A careful analysis of facts in this field induces Mr. Buckle to say that "the existence of crime, according to a fixed and uniform scheme, is a fact more clearly attested than any other in the moral history of man." Another high authority may be quoted in evidence to prove that this scheme is exempt from those laws which govern intellectual development: "It is one of the plainest facts that neither the individuals nor the ages that have been most distinguished for intellectual achievements have been most distinguished for moral excellence, and that a high intellectual and material civilization has often coexisted with much depravity."
All this seems to show us that there is a rhythm in human actions that forms a minor chord in the forever unwritten music which those who love Nature know as existing profoundly in all her works.
Since we are dealing with an element in human character which preserves a fixed value, it is evident that we may study the relation of any class in any community to these constantly-recurring phenomena, provided we can isolate this class from all others. In the study before us, this has already been done by the division of mankind into the sexes. I need draw no other line. Women stand out so clearly as a class, and, in relation to any series of acts which preserve a more or less constant periodicity, are so sharply defined from man, that they are easily contrasted with him in relation to any condition common to both.
- "History of Civilization in England," vol. i., pp. 22, 23.
- "History of European Morals from Augustus to Charlemagne," vol. i., p. 157.