Publication information

Source:
Alienist and Neurologist
Source type: journal
Document type: article
Document title: “The Insanity and Inebriety of J. Wilkes Booth”
Author(s): Crothers, T. D.
Date of publication: February 1911
Volume number: 32
Issue number: 1
Pagination: 40-57 (excerpt below includes only pages 55-57)

 
Citation
Crothers, T. D. “The Insanity and Inebriety of J. Wilkes Booth.” Alienist and Neurologist Feb. 1911 v32n1: pp. 40-57.
 
Transcription
excerpt
 
Keywords
presidential assassinations (comparison); Leon Czolgosz (mental health).
 
Named persons
John Wilkes Booth; Leon Czolgosz; Charles J. Guiteau [misspelled below].
 
Notes
From page 40: By T. D. Crothers, M. D., Supt. Walnut Lodge Hospital, Hartford, Conn.
 
Document


The Insanity and Inebriety of J. Wilkes Booth
[excerpt]

     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 or purpose.
     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 class.
     Such persons not only commit insane acts, but plan and [55][56] 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 seeds.
     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 favorable circumstances.
     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 [56][57] 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.