Insanity In Its Relations To Crime : A Text And a Commentary (1873)by William Alexander Hammond
A PART of this essay, under the title " Society versus Insanity," was contributed to Putnam's Magazine, for September, 1870. The greater portion is now first published. The importance of the subject considered can scarcely be over-estimated, whether we regard it from the stand-point of science or social economy; and, if I have aided in its elucidation, my object will… See more details below
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A PART of this essay, under the title " Society versus Insanity," was contributed to Putnam's Magazine, for September, 1870. The greater portion is now first published. The importance of the subject considered can scarcely be over-estimated, whether we regard it from the stand-point of science or social economy; and, if I have aided in its elucidation, my object will have been attained.
NEW YOEK, April 20, 1873.
days nothing giving the slightest clew to the object of their search was discovered. A handkerchief was found at a little distance from the vineyard, but it did not belong to the lost child. At last, on the 16th of August, a .party of villagers from Cerny, who were engaged in searching for some trace of the girl, perceived a fissure in a large rock, which was partially closed by withered branches, apparently quite recently disturbed. Tearing them away, they found a quantity of hay, straw, and leaves, so arranged as to conceal the opening of a cave, into which they at once entered. The remains of various articles of food, and a bed of hay and moss, revealed the fact that the cave had recently served as a place of habitation. An offensive odor, which filled the cave, led to additional researches, and, in a few moments, they discovered, buried in the sand in a remote corner of the cavern, a dead body, already in a state of putrefaction. A chemise, a petticoat, and a handkerchief, were bound around it with withes of oak. The father and the mother of the young girl recognized the body as that of their lost daughter.
Notified of this discovery, and of the probability that a crime had been committed, the authorities assumed the charge of all further proceedings. A surgeon who examined the corpse ascertained that the body had been opened throughout its whole ex-
tent by a sharp instrument, and that numerous and deep wounds had been made in various parts of the body by the point of the same weapon. The head and the neck were gorged with blood, while the heart and neighboring large vessels were empty.
Anxiety and terror prevailed throughout the district, and every effort was made to discover the perpetrator of the horrible crime. The peasants and the police examined with the utmost care every traveler upon whom they could lay their hands, thinking in each one to detect the assassin. They little knew that he was already in custody.
On the 12th of August, two days after the disappearance of the young girl, and four days before the finding of her body, an officer of the canton had perceived in a forest, seated near a spring, a man who was unknown to him. His appearance was sin-gular, and his clothing was in disorder. The officer approached him, but the man hastily rose and disappeared in the depths of the wood. The following day the officer watched the spring, and in the evening when the man returned to it he arrested him.
The man declared that he was named Antoine Leger, of St.-Martin Bretencourt, in the canton of Dourdan, and that he had left his family suddenly on St. John's day, taking with him the sum of fifty francs. " I walked," said he, " for a day and a half in the forest, when you arrested me. I do not know where I shall go; probably wherever my despair leads me." When taken before the adjoint de la commune, he stated that he was an escaped convict, and he related how he had broken his chains at Brest, and had scaled the walls of his prison.
These singular and contradictory statements, the absence of all papers, the finding of two knives on his person, one with a remarkably sharp blade, constituted a series of suspicious circumstances which led to his detention as a vagrant, if nothing more.
In the jail, Leger told the other prisoners that for fifteen days he had slept in the woods and crevices of the rocks. " But," replied his companions, " what did you eat since you kept away from the villages ? " " Pears, artichokes, and wheat," he answered.
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