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Inquiries into Human Faculty
among mankind; but I have seen a well-dressed child of about four years
old poking its finger with a pleased innocent look into the bleeding
carcase of a sheep hung up in a butcher’s shop, while its nurse was inside.
The subject of character deserves more statistical investigation than it
has yet received, and none have a better chance of doing it well than
schoolmasters; their opportunities are indeed most enviable. It would be
necessary to approach the subject wholly without prejudice, as a pure
matter of observation, just as if the children were the fauna and flora of
hitherto undescribed species in an entirely new land.
Criminality, though not very various in its development, is extremely
complex in its origin; nevertheless certain general conclusions are arrived
at by the best writers on the subject, among whom Prosper Despine is one
of the most instructive. The ideal criminal has marked peculiarities of
character: his conscience is almost deficient, his instincts are vicious, his
power of self-control is very weak, and he usually detests continuous
labour. The absence of self-control is due to ungovernable temper, to
passion, or to mere imbecility, and the conditions that determine the
particular description of crime are the, character of the instincts and of the
The deficiency of conscience in criminals, as shown by the absence of
genuine remorse for their guilt, astonishes all who first become familiar
with the details of prison life. Scenes of heartrending despair are hardly
ever witnessed among prisoners; their sleep is broken by no uneasy
dreams—on the contrary, it is easy and sound; they have also excellent
appetites. But hypocrisy is a very common vice; and all my information
agrees as to the utter untruthfulness of criminals, however plausible their
statements may be.
We must guard ourselves against looking upon vicious instincts as
perversions, inasmuch as they may be strictly in
accordance with the
healthy nature of the man, and, being transmissible by inheritance, may
become the normal characteristics of a healthy race, just as the sheep-dog,
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