The Insanity and Inebriety of J. Wilkes Booth
Such men are the most
dangerous maniacs and are just now being recognized as persons who
should be put away and protected from executing crimes of the most
unreasonable character. Booth was the first maniac to take the life
of a President.
The second was Giteau, who was equally
a maniac, but of another type. He had no principle or purpose, except
to secure certain prominence and change the order of events. He
too believed that his act would be protected and supported by persons
who would be benefited by it. The same delusional impulses pervaded
his mind in a measure. He resorted to alcohol to give him courage
to commit the crime.
The third was Czolgosz, a dement and
similar maniac, having concealed morbid impulses and manias that
something should happen, not only to make him prominent, but to
help on some unknown cause by his act. Like the others he drank
spirits before the crime and lived in a saloon and while not known
as an inebriate, possessed a low grade brain that was still more
insane from the effects of spirits.
These three maniacs are examples of
a most dangerous class of persons seen both in and out of hospitals
for the insane and prisons. They use alcohol, either to excess or
moderation, sometimes show periods of sanity and act with reason
and then suddenly commit the most unreasonable crimes without object
Such persons possess unstable, defective
organizations and are literally irresponsible and dangerous, although
not recognized. Society and the courts still continue to recognize
the old theory of free will and vice which can be corrected by punishment.
This error is responsible for the continuation of this most dangerous
Such persons not only commit insane
acts, but plan and  show a
degree of cunning that is considered evidence of free will and consciousness
of the situation. Punishment seems to intensify this condition,
making many men reasoning maniacs and giving form and direction
to their insane impulses, giving them certain pleasure in criminal
conduct and efforts to evade the law.
Outside of this particular criminal
class there is a still larger number of inebriate maniacs, not always
drunkards, but men who live on beer, wine and spirits, whose delirious
theories of life and misconceptions place them among the army of
anarchists, socialists in the worse sense, agitators and wild reformers
whose delirious theories point to an unbalanced, unreasonable brain.
Such persons are usually cowards who
talk wildly but seldom materialize their extreme theories. They
live on the frontiers of crime and insanity and are likely any moment
to pass over the borderline and engage in some serious acts.
Booth’s insanity was not recognized
by the public at the time. The other assassins of the Presidents
were not understood and were executed as sane and responsible. While
alcohol was not so prominent in the two later assassins, it was
undoubtedly a factor and indicated beyond question that given the
poor feeble brain with unlimited opportunities to use spirits and
crime will follow with the same certainty that plants come from
There are many poor, disabled men
who use alcohol, which not only increases their disability, but
destroys their reason and power of control. They are the persons
aways [sic] ready to form plots and to execute crime under
It is only a question of conditions
and the exciting causes. They have all the requisites of delusion,
manias and morbid impulses which only need concentration to materialize
into crime. Saloons on every corner of the street are the schools
for intensifying and making permanent manias and morbid impulses.
The same crimes are going on constantly
and undoubtedly public men in the future will be killed by the same
class. Wild denunciations of leaders and bitter recriminations of
 men and events are almost
certain to furnish favorable soil for the culmination of similar
tragedies in almost every circle of life.
There are other Booth’s, Giteau’s
and Czolgosz’s [sic] roaming around unrestrained, who only
need favorable circumstances and stimulating suggestions to commit
similar tragedies. The yellow journals and the saloon are the books
and schools for the growth and development of inebriate maniacs
and delusional dements to commit crimes and atrocious acts.
A better public sentiment must break
up these infected sources and suppress these exciting causes. Then
it is possible to lock up and restrain this element that is certain
to commit crime in the future.