Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 8.djvu/13

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

I have already called attention to the fact that intellectual development obeys other laws than those which relate to crime. This requires to be brought out more clearly in relation to women. In this age women are receiving more chivalric attention, more material respect, than in any other known to history. In this century they are accorded the full right, and are given the aid of some of the best intellects among the other sex, to adjust those wrongs under which they have labored for ages. They are identified with every scheme of love and purity which demands good motives and a sympathy that never slumbers. It is for this reason, then, that, when we associate women with the idea of crime, it is difficult to believe that they are not influenced by other laws than those which affect men. There is nothing in a brawny hand and coarse muscle which tends to evil. The hand which executes may be white and begemmed. The mind which plans may be cultivated and refined.

In the study before us, we shall be obliged to resort to other facts than those simply contained in tabulated statements of crime. Statistics has done much in social study, and in this instance it has pointed out the existence of law in human action in the aggregate; but it has gone no deeper. We can establish by its means a probable difference in the degree to which the sexes are affected by crime; we can so group these numerical statements that they will be a mutual check upon each other, but if we are to learn any thing of the under stratum of human life, of its curves and faults, of which we see only here and there an upheaval upon the surface of society, we must study sexual and general character, we must observe the mutual relation and dependence of the sexes and classes upon each other, and give due credit to the cerebral and physical differences which go to make up the sum of sex all of which are beyond the province of figures to express. In the course of these papers, therefore, I shall resort to statistics only to the extent I have mentioned. The popular character which I have endeavored to give them also forbids the resort to statistical detail, except to the extent which is inseparable from the nature of the study.

As in hygiene so in crime, there is not one law for woman and another for man. The emotions which impel to crime are few, and to the operation of which the sexes are both exposed. But, it does not follow that these causes react in the production of crime to an equal degree. The propensity to crime, as defined by its actual commission, is four times as great in men as in women.[1] Here at the outset we are confronted by a remarkable contrast. But, allowed to stand as here stated, it involves a vital error. A propensity to crime is its existence latent in the possibilities of the individual. Justin McCarthy, in one of his novels, in describing a character defines her virtue as purely anatomical while mentally most unchaste. Here the

  1. Quetelet, "A Treatise on Man," p. 70.