Publication information
view printer-friendly version
Source: New-York Tribune
Source type: newspaper
Document type: article
Document title: “Does Not Show Insanity”
Author(s): anonymous
City of publication: New York, New York
Date of publication: 10 September 1901
Volume number: 61
Issue number: 20022
Pagination: 3

“Does Not Show Insanity.” New-York Tribune 10 Sept. 1901 v61n20022: p. 3.
full text
Leon Czolgosz (mental health); J. Leonard Corning; J. Leonard Corning (public statements); anarchism (dealing with); anarchists; William McKinley (recovery: speculation).
Named persons
Thomas G. Barker; J. Leonard Corning; Leon Czolgosz; Ida McKinley; William McKinley.


Does Not Show Insanity



     The official photograph of Czolgosz, which was printed in The Tribune yesterday, caused considerable discussion among physicians who have made a special study of the criminal mind. It was the general opinion of leading neurologists and alienists who were seen by Tribune reporters that the would-be assassin of President McKinley is not insane, but merely a product of anarchistic tendencies.
     Dr. J. Leonard Corning, a well known neurologist, of No. 53 West Thirty-eighth-st., who attracted considerable attention as an alienist expert in the Barker-Keller case, in which he testified as to the insanity of Barker, and who has written several works on neurology and nervous diseases, told a Tribune reporter it was his opinion that it was Czolgosz’s thirst for notoriety, and not insanity, which caused the young Polish-American to commit the crime of last Friday. After Dr. Corning had made a close study of the published portrait of the anarchist, he was asked:
     “Would you say that Czolgosz was insane?”
     “No; not in any legal or generally accepted use of the term.”
     “Do you ascribe any especial importance to the shape of the skull as a direct or indirect evidence of insanity?”
     “Certainly not, except where the deviation from the normal, both in size and shape, is of the most exaggerated kind.”
     “Is there not a popular belief that even minor deviations from the normal skull have a bearing on the mental status of the individual?”
     “There is, but the proposition has been disproved over and over again.”
     “In the photograph of Czolgosz, do you notice any pronounced asymmetry of the skull or face?”
     “No; nothing marked.”


     “Do you regard this man as peculiarly susceptible to suggestions from others, from your reading of his history in The Tribune?”
     “Yes, I do, so much so that it would be strong presumptive evidence in my mind that he had been in collusion with others in the prepetration [sic] of this crime.”
     “In view of the fact that there are so many weak minded and criminally disposed persons in the community, do you not believe that the circulation of inflammatory and criminal literature should be suppressed by statutory enactment?”
     “I most emphatically do. And for the same reason, the holding of public meetings for the purpose of suggesting and inciting to criminal acts should be ruthlessly prohibited.”
     “What do you think will be the defence of this man when arraigned in court?”
     “I think that it will be insanity, and it is possible that this line of defence was agreed upon before he committed the crime.”
     “To what do you ascribe his present bravado?”
     “To mock heroics, a disposition to play a theatrical role.”
     The doctor then added:
     “Criminals of this kind are characterized by inordinate egoism, an obtunded or perverted moral sense, relatively low intelligence and extreme amenability to suggestions from others. When the subject engages in quixotic and criminal enterprises he is commonly supposed to do so under the sway of a fanatical sense of personal obligation, leading to heroic self-sacrifice. This is not the true explanation; the real psychological factor is the lust for self-appreciation and public appreciation, as shown by the revolting demeanor of the subject after the commission of a crime of violence, dastardly and cowardly. He gloats in the deed as such, is delighted that he and it are talked about, and maintains a front of brutal indifference as long as his lust for self-aggrandizement is gratified.
     “This colossal egoism has nothing in common with the honorable pride which leads to the faithful performance of irksome and often bitter tasks, inseparable from common life; or to the achievement of honorable fame in war, the arts, sciences, commerce, literature or politics. Success in these fields requires self-abnegation, long continued, and usually an honest observance of the rules of the game. In other words, the individual must possess the faculties of moral and intellectual inhibition.
     “It is precisely here that a portentous hiatus is discernible in the psychical outfit of these anarchistic criminals. Too warped intellectually and too immoral to look at any large problem either intellectually or disinterestedly, they cast their lot with anly [sic] scheme, no matter how quixotic, no matter how evil, which promises to confer a large place upon presumptuous covetousness and small endowment. Many are the flabby witted dupes who, unsuccessful in the arena of civilized society, seek the delusive solace of this synthetized [sic] knavery of anarchy, and here is the great danger to society—the systematic mental and moral inoculation of the inefficient members of the race.
     “The anarchistic criminal—he who does the deed, not he who urges him on to it—is invariably inordinately amenable to suggestion, to incitement from without. It follows, therefore, that if we are ever effectually to combat this class of criminals we must protect the weaker members of society from becoming the tools of the unscrupulous. Every direct incitement to a homicidal deed, especially when made against the head of a government or his responsible associates in the Cabinet, should be punishable with the extreme penalty of the law, while those who are less directly concerned in the perpetration should be imprisoned for life.”


     “Do you think that Mr. McKinley’s constitutional vitality is such as to aid materially in his recovery?”
     “Yes, most certainly. His even balance of mind, his will power and his abstemious habits— particularly his abstention from alcohol—cannot fail to have left his nervous system in a state of the highest efficiency. This, combined with the extraordinary address and skill shown by his physicians, must go a long way toward helping him on in the combat for life.”
     “How do you explain Mrs. McKinley’s present fortitude?”
     “I ascribe it to a latent nervous resiliency, a quality which, paradoxical as it may seem, is often displayed by persons of highly nervous constitution, under the stress of a great exigency.”
     Dr. Corning won renown several months ago by his discovery of spinal anæsthesia, by which the lower parts of the body can be made insensible to pain and can be thus operated upon without the consciousness of the patient, by means of injections of cocaine into the spinal duct. Several operations by spinal anæsthesia were made as a proof of its practicability.



top of page