THE POSITIVE SCHOOL OF CRIMINOLOGY
Given at the University of Naples, Italy on April 22, 23 and 24, 1901
By Enrico Ferri
Translated by Ernest Untermann
Charles H. Kerr & Company
THE POSITIVE SCHOOL OF CRIMINOLOGY
When, in the turmoil of my daily occupation, I received an invitation, several months ago, from several hundred students of this famous university, to give them a brief summary, in short special lectures, of the principal and fundamental conclusions of criminal sociology, I gladly accepted, because this invitation fell in with two ideals of mine. These two ideals are stirring my heart and are the secret of my life. In the first place, this invitation chimed with the ideal of my personal life, namely, to diffuse and propagate among my brothers the scientific ideas, which my brain has accumulated, not through any merit of mine, but thanks to the lucky prize inherited from my mother in the lottery of life. And the second ideal which this invitation called up before my mind's vision was this: The ideal of young people of Italy, united in morals and intellectual pursuits, feeling in their social lives the glow of a great aim. It would matter little whether this aim would agree with my own ideas or be opposed to them, so long as it should be an ideal which would lift the aspirations of the young people out of the fatal grasp of egoistic interests. Of course, we positivists know very well, that the material requirements of life shape and determine also the moral and intellectual aims of human consciousness. But positive science declares the following to be the indispensable requirement for the regeneration of human ideals: Without an ideal, neither an individual nor a collectivity can live, without it humanity is dead or dying. For it is the fire of an ideal which renders the life of each one of us possible, useful and fertile. And only by its help can each one of us, in the more or less short course of his or her existence, leave behind traces for the benefit of fellow-beings. The invitation extended to me proves that the students of Naples believe in the inspiring existence of such an ideal of science, and are anxious to learn more about ideas, with which the entire world of the present day is occupied, and whose life-giving breath enters even through the windows of the dry courtrooms, when their doors are closed against it.
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Let us now speak of this new science, which has become known in Italy by the name of the Positive School of Criminology. This science, the same as every other phenomenon of scientific evolution, cannot be shortsightedly or conceitedly attributed to the arbitrary initiative of this or that thinker, this or that scientist. We must rather regard it as a natural product, a necessary phenomenon, in the development of that sad and somber department of science which deals with the disease of crime. It is this plague of crime which forms such a gloomy and painful contrast with the splendor of present-day civilization. The 19th century has won a great victory over mortality and infectious diseases by means of the masterful progress of physiology and natural science. But while contagious diseases have gradually diminished, we see on the other hand that moral diseases are growing more numerous in our so-called civilization. While typhoid fever, smallpox, cholera and diphtheria retreated before the remedies which enlightened science applied by means of the experimental method, removing their concrete causes, we see on the other hand that insanity, suicide and crime, that painful trinity, are growing apace. And this makes it very evident that the science which is principally, if not exclusively, engaged in studying these phenomena of social disease, should feel the necessity of finding a more exact diagnosis of these moral diseases of society, in order to arrive at some effective and more humane remedy, which should more victoriously combat this somber trinity of insanity, suicide and crime.
The science of positive criminology arose in the last quarter of the 19th century, as a result of this strange contrast, which would be inexplicable, if we could not discover historical and scientific reasons for its existence. And it is indeed a strange contrast that Italy should have arrived at a perfect theoretical development of a classical school of criminology, while there persists, on the other hand, the disgraceful condition that criminality assumes dimensions never before observed in this country, so that the science of criminology cannot stem the tide of crime in high and low circles. It is for this reason, that the positive school of criminology arises out of the very nature of things, the same as every other line of science. It is based on the conditions of our daily life. It would indeed be conceited on our part to claim that we, who are the originators of this new science and its new conclusions, deserve alone the credit for its existence. The brain of the scientist is rather a sort of electrical accumulator, which feels and assimilates the vibrations and heart-beats of life, its splendor and its shame, and derives therefrom the conviction that it must of necessity provide for definite social wants. And on the other hand, it would be an evidence of intellectual short-sightedness on the part of the positivist man of science, if he did not recognize the historical accomplishments, which his predecessors on the field of science have left behind as indelible traces of their struggle against the unknown in that brilliant and irksome domain. For this reason, the adherents of the positive school of criminology feel the most sincere reverence for the classic school of criminology. And I am glad today, in accepting the invitation of the students of Naples, to say, that this is another reason why their invitation was welcome to me. It is now 16 years since I gave in this same hall a lecture on positive criminology, which was then in its initial stages. It was in 1885, when I had the opportunity to outline the first principles of the positive school of criminology, at the invitation of other students, who preceded you on the periodic waves of the intellectual generations. And the renewal of this opportunity gave me so much moral satisfaction that, I could not under any circumstances decline your invitation. Then too, the Neapolitan Atheneum has maintained the reputation of the Italian mind in the 19th century, also in that science which even foreign scientists admit to be our specialty, namely the science of criminology. In fact, aside from the two terrible books of the Digest, and from the practical criminologists of the Middle Ages who continued the study of criminality, the modern world opened a glorious page in the progress of criminal science with the modest little book of Cesare Beccaria. This progress leads from Cesare Beccaria, by way of Francesco Carrara, to Enrico Pessina.
Enrico Pessina alone remains of the two giants who concluded the cycle of classic school of criminology. In a lucid moment of his scientific consciousness, which soon reverted to the old abstract and metaphysical theories, he announced in an introductory statement in 1879, that criminal justice would have to rejuvenate itself in the pure bath of the natural sciences and substitute in place of abstraction the living and concrete study of facts. Naturally every scientist has his function and historical significance; and we cannot expect that a brain which has arrived at the end of its career should turn towards a new direction. At any rate, it is a significant fact that this most renowned representative of the classic school of criminology should have pointed out this need of his special science in this same university of Naples, one year after the inauguration of the positive school of criminology, that he should have looked forward to a time when the study of natural and positive facts would set to rights the old juridical abstractions. And there is still another precedent in the history of this university, which makes scientific propaganda at this place very agreeable for a positivist. It is that six years before that introductory statement by Pessina, Giovanni Bovio gave lectures at this university, which he published later on under the title of "A Critical Study of Criminal Law." Giovanni Bovio performed in this monograph the function of a critic, but the historical time of his thought, prevented him from taking part in the construction of a new science. However, he prepared the ground for new ideas, by pointing out all the rifts and weaknesses of the old building. Bovio maintained that which Gioberti, Ellero, Conforti, Tissol had already maintained, namely that it is impossible to solve the problem which is still the theoretical foundation of the classic school of criminology, the problem of the relation between punishment and crime. No man, no scientist, no legislator, no judge, has ever been able to indicate any absolute standard, which would enable us to say that equity demands a definite punishment for a definite crime. We can find some opportunistic expedient, but not a solution of the problem. Of course, if we could decide which is the gravest crime, then we could also decide on the heaviest sentence and formulate a descending scale which would establish the relative fitting proportions between crime and punishment. If it is agreed that patricide is the gravest crime, we meet out the heaviest sentence, death or imprisonment for life, and then we can agree on a descending scale of crime and on a parallel scale of punishments. But the problem begins right with the first stone of the structure, not with the succeeding steps. Which is the greatest penalty proportional to the crime of patricide? Neither science, nor legislation, nor moral consciousness, can offer an absolute standard. Some say: The greatest penalty is death. Others say: No, imprisonment for life. Still others say: Neither death, nor imprisonment for life, but only imprisonment for a time. And if imprisonment for a time is to be the highest penalty, how many years shall it last —thirty, or twenty-five, or ten?
No man can set up any absolute standard in this matter. Giovanni Bovio thus arrived at the conclusion that this internal contradiction in the science of criminology was the inevitable fate of human justice, and that this justice, struggling in the grasp of this internal contradiction, must turn to the civil law and ask for help in its weakness. The same thought had already been illumined by a ray from the bright mind of Filangieri, who died all too soon. And we can derive from this fact the historical rule that the most barbarian conditions of humanity show a prevalence of a criminal code which punishes without healing; and that the gradual progress of civilization will give rise to the opposite conception of healing without punishing.
Thus it happens that this university of Naples, in which the illustrious representative of the classic school of criminology realized the necessity of its regeneration, and in which Bovio foresaw its sterility, has younger teachers now who keep alive the fire of the positivist tendency in criminal science, such as Penta, Zuccarelli, and others, whom you know. Nevertheless I feel that this faculty of jurisprudence still lacks oxygen in the study of criminal law, because its thought is still influenced by the overwhelming authority of the name of Enrico Pessina. And it is easy to understand that there, where the majestic tree spreads out its branches towards the blue vault, the young plant feels deprived of light and air, while it might have grown strong and beautiful in another place.
The positive school of criminology, then, was born in our own Italy through the singular attraction of the Italian mind toward the study of criminology; and its birth is also due to the peculiar condition our country with its great and strange contrast between the theoretical doctrines and the painful fact of an ever increasing criminality.
The positive school of criminology was inaugurate by the work of Cesare Lombroso, in 1872. From 1872 to 1876 he opened a new way for the study of criminality by demonstrating in his own person that we must first understand the criminal who offends, before we can study and understand his crime. Lombroso studied the prisoners in the various penitentiaries of Italy from the point of view of anthropology. And he compiled his studies in the reports of the Lombardian Institute of Science and Literature, and published them later together in his work "Criminal Man." The first edition of this work (1876) remained almost unnoticed, either because its scientific material was meager, or because Cesare Lombroso had not yet drawn any general scientific conclusions, which could have attracted the attention of the world of science and law. But simultaneously with its second edition (1878) there appeared two monographs, which constituted the embryo of the new school, supplementing the anthropological studies of Lombroso with conclusions and systematizations from the point of view of sociology and law. Raffaele Garofalo published in the Neapolitan Journal of Philosophy and Literature an essay on criminality, in which he declared that the dangerousness of the criminal was the criterion by which society should measure the function of its defense against the disease of crime. And in the same year, 1878, I took occasion to publish a monograph on the denial of free will and personal responsibility, in which I declared frankly that from now on the science of crime and punishment must look for the fundamental facts of a science of social defense against crime in the human and social life itself. The simultaneous publication of these three monographs caused a stir. The teachers of classic criminology, who had taken kindly to the recommendations of Pessina and Ellero, urging them to study the natural sources of crime, met the new ideas with contempt, when the new methods made a determined and radical departure, and became not only the critics, but the zealous opponents of the new theories. And this is easy to understand. For the struggle for existence is an irresistible law of nature, as well for the thousands of germs scattered to the winds by the oak, as for the ideas which grow in the brain of man. But persecutions, calumnies, criticisms, and opposition are powerless against an idea, if it carries within itself the germ of truth. Moreover, we should look upon this phenomenon of a repugnance in the average intellect (whether of the ordinary man or the scientist) for all new ideas as a natural function. For when the brain of some man has felt the light of a new idea, a sneering criticism serves us a touchstone for it. If the idea is wrong, it will fall by the wayside; if it is right, then criticisms, opposition and persecution will cull the golden kernel from the unsightly shell, and the idea will march victoriously over everything and everybody. It is so in all walks of life—in art, in politics, in science. Every new idea will rouse against itself naturally and inevitably the opposition of the accustomed thoughts. This is so true, that when Cesare Beccaria opened the great historic cycle of the classic school of criminology, he was assaulted by the critics of his time with the same indictments which were brought against us a century later.
When Cesare Beccaria printed his book on crime and penalties in 1774 under a false date and place of publication, reflecting the aspirations which gave rise to the impending hurricane of the French revolution; when he hurled himself against all that was barbarian in the mediaeval laws and set loose a storm of enthusiasm among the encyclopedists, and even some of the members of government, in France, he was met by a wave of opposition, calumny and accusation on the part of the majority of jurists, judges and lights of philosophy. The abbe Jachinci published four volumes against Beccaria, calling him the destroyer of justice and morality, simply because he had combatted the tortures and the death penalty.
The tortures, which we incorrectly ascribe to the mental brutality of the judges of those times, were but a logical consequence of the contemporaneous theories. It was felt that in order to condemn a man, one must have the certainty of his guilty, and it was said that the best means of obtaining tins certainty, the queen of proofs, was the confession of the criminal. And if the criminal denied his guilt, it was necessary to have recourse to torture, in order to force him to a confession which he withheld from fear of the penalty. The torture soothed, so to say, the conscience of the judge, who was free to condemn as soon as he had obtained a confession. Cesare Beccaria rose with others against the torture. Thereupon the judges and jurists protested that penal justice would be impossible, because it could not get any information, since a man suspected of a crime would not confess his guilt voluntarily. Hence they accused Beccaria of being the protector of robbers and murderers, because he wanted to abolish the only means of compelling them to a confession, the torture. But Cesare Beccaria had on his side the magic power of truth. He was truly the electric accumulator of his time, who gathered from its atmosphere the presage of the coming revolution, the stirring of the human conscience. You can find a similar illustration in the works of Daquin in Savoy, of Pinel in France, and of Hach Take in England, who strove to bring about a revolution in the treatment of the insane. This episode interests us especially, because it is a perfect illustration of the way traveled by the positive school of criminology. The insane were likewise considered to blame for their insanity. At the dawn of the 19th century, the physician Hernroth still wrote that insanity was a moral sin of the insane, because "no one becomes insane, unless he forsakes the straight path of virtue and of the fear of the Lord."
And on this assumption the insane were locked up in horrible dungeons, loaded down with chains, tortured and beaten, for lo! their insanity was their own fault.
At that period, Pinel advanced the revolutionary idea that insanity was not a sin, but a disease like all other diseases. This idea is now a commonplace, but in his time it revolutionized the world. It seemed as though this innovation inaugurated by Pinel would overthrow the world and the foundations of society. Well, two years before the storming of the Bastile Pinel walked into the sanitarium of the Salpetriere and committed the brave act of freeing the insane of the chains that weighed them down. He demonstrated in practice that the insane, when freed of their chains, became quieter, instead of creating wild disorder and destruction. This great revolution of Pinel, Chiarugi, and others, changed the attitude of the public mind toward the insane. While formerly insanity had been regarded as a moral sin, the public conscience, thanks to the enlightening work of science, henceforth had to adapt itself to the truth that insanity is a disease like all others, that a man does not become insane because he wants to, but that he becomes insane through hereditary transmission and the influence of the environment in which he lives, being predisposed toward insanity and becoming insane under the pressure of circumstances.
The positive school of criminology accomplished the same revolution in the views concerning the treatment of criminals that the above named men of science accomplished for the treatment of the insane. The general opinion of classic criminalists and of the people at large is that crime involves a moral guilt, because it is due to the free will of the individual who leaves the path of virtue and chooses the path of crime, and therefore it must be suppressed by meeting it with a proportionate quantity of punishment. This is to this day the current conception of crime. And the illusion of a free human will (the only miraculous factor in the eternal ocean of cause and effect) leads to the assumption that one can choose freely between virtue and vice. How can you still believe in the existence of a free will, when modern psychology armed with all the instruments of positive modern research, denies that there is any free will and demonstrates that every act of a human being is the result of an interaction between the personality and the environment of man?
And how is it possible to cling to that obsolete idea of moral guilt, according to which every individual is supposed to have the free choice to abandon virtue and give himself up to crime? The positive school of criminology maintains, on the contrary, that it is not the criminal who wills; in order to be a criminal it is rather necessary that the individual should find himself permanently or transitorily in such personal, physical and moral conditions, and live in such an environment, which become for him a chain of cause and effect, externally and internally, that disposes him toward crime. This is our conclusion, which I anticipate, and it constitutes the vastly different and opposite method, which the positive school of criminology employs as compared to the leading principle of the classic school of criminal science.
In this method, this essential principle of the positive school of criminology, you will find another reason for the seemingly slow advance of this school. That is very natural. If you consider the great reform carried by the ideas of Cesare Beccaria into the criminal justice of the Middle Age, you will see that the great classic school represents but a small step forward, because it leaves the penal justice on the same theoretical and practical basis which it had in the Middle Age and in classic antiquity, that is to say, based on the idea of a moral responsibility of the individual. For Beccaria, for Carrara, for their predecessors, this idea is no more nor less than that mentioned in books 47 and 48 of the Digest: "The criminal is liable to punishment to the extent that he is morally guilty of the crime he has committed." The entire classic school is, therefore, nothing but a series of reforms. Capital punishment has been abolished in some countries, likewise torture, confiscation, corporal punishment. But nevertheless the immense scientific movement of the classic school has remained a mere reform.
It has continued in the 19th century to look upon crime in the same way that the Middle Age did: "Whoever commits murder or theft, is alone the absolute arbiter to decide whether he wants to commit the crime or not." This remains the foundation of the classic school of criminology. This explains why it could travel on its way more rapidly than the positive school of criminology. And yet, it took half a century from the time of Beccaria, before the penal codes showed signs of the reformatory influence of the classic school of criminology. So that it has also taken quite a long time to establish it so well that it became accepted by general consent, as it is today. The positive school of criminology was born in 1878, and although it does not stand for a mere reform of the methods of criminal justice, but for a complete and fundamental transformation of criminal justice itself, it has already gone quite a distance and made considerable conquests which begin to show in our country. It is a fact that the penal code now in force in this country represents a compromise, so far as the theory of personal responsibility is concerned, between the old theory of free will and the conclusions of the positive school which denies this free will.
You can find an illustration of this in the eloquent contortions of phantastic logic in the essays on the criminal code written by a great advocate of the classic school of criminology, Mario Pagano, this admirable type of a scientist and patriot, who does not lock himself up in the quiet egoism of his study, but feels the ideal of his time stirring within him and gives up his life to it. He has written three lines of a simple nudity that reveals much, in which he says: "A man is responsible for the crimes which he commits; if, in committing a crime, his will is half free, he is responsible to the extent of one-half; if one-third, he is responsible one-third." There you have the uncompromising and absolute classic theorem. But in the penal code of 1890, you will find that the famous article 45 intends to base the responsibility for a crime on the simple will, to the exclusion of the free will. However, the Italian judge has continued to base the exercise of penal justice on the supposed existence of the free will, and pretends not to know that the number of scientists denying the free will is growing. Now, how is it possible that so terrible an office as that of sentencing criminals retains its stability or vacillates, according to whether the first who denies the existence of a free will deprives this function of its foundation?
Truly, it is said that this question has been too difficult for the new Italian penal code. And, for this reason, it was thought best to base the responsibility for a crime on the idea that a man is guilty simply for the reason that he wanted to commit the crime; and that he is not responsible if he did not want to commit it. But this is an eclectic way out of the difficulty, which settles nothing, for in the same code we have the rule that involuntary criminals are also punished, so that involuntary killing and wounding are punished with imprisonment the same as voluntary deeds of this kind. We have heard it said in such cases that the result may not have been intended, but the action bringing it about was. If a hunter shoots through a hedge and kills or wounds a person, he did not intend to kill, and yet he is held responsible because his first act, the shooting, was voluntary.
That statement applies to involuntary crimes, which are committed by some positive act. But what about involuntary crimes of omission? In a railway station, where the movements of trains represent the daily whirl of traffic in men, things, and ideas, every switch is a delicate instrument which may cause a derailment. The railway management places a switchman on duty at this delicate post. But in a moment of fatigue, or because he had to work inhumanly long hours of work, which exhausted all his nervous elasticity, or for other reasons, the switchman forgets to set the switch and causes a railroad accident, in which people are killed and wounded. Can it be said that he intended the first act? Assuredly not, for he did not intend anything and did not do anything. The hunter who fires a shot has at least had the intention of shooting. But the switchman did not want to forget (for in that case he would be indirectly to blame); he has simply forgotten from sheer fatigue to do his duty; he has had no intention whatever, and yet you hold him responsible in spite of all that! The fundamental logic of your reasoning in this case corresponds to the logic of the things. Does it not happen every day in the administration of justice that the judges forget about the neutral expedient of the legislator who devised this relative progress of the penal code, which pretends to base the responsibility of a man on the neutral and naive criterion of a will without freedom of will? Do they not follow their old mental habits in the administration of justice and apply the obsolete criterion of the free will, which the legislator thought fit to abandon? We see, then, as a result of this imperfect and insincere innovation in penal legislation this flagrant contradiction, that the magistrates assume the existence of a free will, while the legislator has decided that it shall not be assumed. Now, in science as well as in legislation, we should follow a direct and logical line, such as that of the classic school or the positive school of criminology. But whoever thinks he has solved a problem when he gives us a solution which is neither fish nor fowl, comes to the most absurd and iniquitous conclusions. You see what happens every day. If to-morrow some beastly and incomprehensible crime is committed, the conscience of the judge is troubled by this question: Was the person who committed this crime morally free to act or not? He may also invoke the help of legislation, and he may take refuge in article 46,[A] or in that compromise of article 47,[B] which admits a responsibility of one-half or one-third, and he would decide on a penalty of one-half or one-third.
All this may take place in the case of a grave and strange crime. And on the other hand, go to the municipal courts or to the police courts, where the magic lantern of justice throws its rays upon the nameless human beings who have stolen a bundle of wood in a hard winter, or who have slapped some one in the face during a brawl in a saloon. And if they should find a defending lawyer who would demand the appointment of a medical expert, watch the reception he would get from the judge. When justice is surprised by a beastly and strange crime, it feels the entire foundation of its premises shaking, it halts for a moment, it calls in the help of legal medicine, and reflects before it sentences. But in the case of those poor nameless creatures, justice does not stop to consider whether that microbe in the criminal world who steals under the influence of hereditary or acquired degeneration, or in the delirium of chronic hunger, is not worthy of more pity. It rather replies with a mephistophelian grin when he begs for a humane understanding of his case.
[A] Article 46: "A person is not subject to punishment, if at the moment of his deed he was in a mental condition which deprived him of consciousness or of the freedom of action. But if the judge considers it dangerous to acquit the prisoner, he has to transfer him to the care of the proper authorities, who will take the necessary precautions."
[B] Article 47: "If the mental condition mentioned in the foregoing article was such as to considerably decrease the responsibility, without eliminating it entirely, the penalty fixed upon the crime committed is reduced according to the following rules:
"I. In place of penitentiary, imprisonment for not less than six years.
"II. In place of the permanent loss of civic rights, a loss of these rights for a stipulated time.
"III. Whenever it is a question of a penalty of more than twelve years, it is reduced to from three to ten years; if of more than six years, but not more than twelve, it is reduced to from one to five years; in other cases, the reduction is to be one-half of the ordinary penalty.
"IV. A fine is reduced to one-half.
"V. If the penalty would be a restriction of personal liberty, the judge may order the prisoner to a workhouse, until the proper authorities object, when the remainder of the sentence is carried out in the usual manner."
It is true that there is now and then in those halls of justice, which remain all too frequently closed to the living wave of public sentiment, some more intelligent and serene judge who is touched by this painful understanding of the actual human life. Then he may, under the illogical conditions of penal justice, with its compromise between the exactness of the classic and that of the positive school of criminology, seek for some expedient which may restore him to equanimity.
In 1832, France introduced a penal innovation, which seemed to represent an advance on the field of justice, but which is in reality a denial of justice: The expedient of extenuating circumstances. The judge does not ask for the advice of the court physician in the case of some forlorn criminal, but condemns him without a word of rebuke to society for its complicity. But in order to assuage his own conscience he grants him extenuating circumstances, which seem a concession of justice, but are, in reality, a denial of justice. For you either believe that a man is responsible for his crime, and in that case the concession of extenuating circumstances is a hypocrisy; or you grant them in good faith, and then you admit that the man was in circumstances which reduced his moral responsibility, and thereby the extenuating circumstances become a denial of justice. For if your conviction concerning such circumstances were sincere, you would go to the bottom of them and examine with the light of your understanding all those innumerable conditions which contribute toward those extenuating circumstances. But what are those extenuating circumstances? Family conditions? Take it that a child is left alone by its parents, who are swallowed up in the whirl of modern industry, which overthrows the laws of nature and forbids the necessary rest, because steam engines do not get tired and day work must be followed by night work, so that the setting of the sun is no longer the signal for the laborer to rest, but to begin a new shift of work. Take it that this applies not alone to adults, but also to human beings in the growing stage, whose muscular power may yield some profit for the capitalists. Take it that even the mother, during the period of sacred maternity, becomes a cog in the machinery of industry. And you will understand that the child must grow up, left to its own resources, in the filth of life, and that its history will be inscribed in criminal statistics, which are the shame of our so-called civilization.
Of course, in this first lecture I cannot give you even a glimpse of the positive results of that modern science which has studied the criminal and his environment instead of his crimes. And I must, therefore, limit myself to a few hints concerning the historical origin of the positive school of criminology. I ought to tell you something concerning the question of free will. But you will understand that such a momentous question, which is worthy of a deep study of the many-sided physical, moral, intellectual life, cannot be summed up in a few short words. I can only say that the tendency of modern natural sciences, in physiology as well as psychology, has overruled the illusions of those who would fain persist in watching psychological phenomena merely within themselves and think that they can understand them without any other means. On the contrary, positive science, backed by the testimony of anthropology and of the study of the environment, has arrived at the following conclusions: The admission of a free will is out of the question. For if the free will is but an illusion of our internal being, it is not a real faculty possessed by the human mind. Free will would imply that the human will, confronted by the choice of making voluntarily a certain determination, has the last decisive word under the pressure of circumstances contending for and against this decision; that it is free to decide for or against a certain course independently of internal and external circumstances, which play upon it, according to the laws of cause and effect.
Take it that a man has insulted me. I leave the place in which I have been insulted, and with me goes the suggestion of forgiveness or of murder and vengeance. And then it is assumed that a man has his complete free will, unless he is influenced by circumstances explicitly enumerated by the law, such as minority, congenital deaf-muteness, insanity, habitual drunkenness and, to a certain extent, violent passion. If a man is not in a condition mentioned in this list, he is considered in possession of his free will, and if he murders he is held morally responsible and therefore punished.
This illusion of a free will has its source in our inner consciousness, and is due solely to the ignorance in which we find ourselves concerning the various motives and different external and internal conditions which press upon our mind at the moment of decision.
If a man knows the principal causes which determine a certain phenomenon, he says that this phenomenon is inevitable. If he does not know them, he considers it as an accident, and this corresponds in the physical field to the arbitrary phenomenon of the human will which does not know whether it shall decide this way or that. For instance, some of us were of the opinion, and many still are, that the coming and going of meteorological phenomena was accidental and could not he foreseen. But in the meantime, science has demonstrated that they are likewise subject to the law of causality, because it discovered the causes which enable us to foresee their course. Thus weather prognosis has made wonderful progress by the help of a network of telegraphically connected meteorological stations, which succeeded in demonstrating the connection between cause and effect in the case of hurricanes, as well as of any other physical phenomenon. It is evident that the idea of accident, applied to physical nature, is unscientific. Every physical phenomenon is the necessary effect of the causes that determined it beforehand. If those causes are known to us, we have the conviction that that phenomenon is necessary, is fate, and, if we do not know them, we think it is accidental. The same is true of human phenomena. But since we do not know the internal and external causes in the majority of cases, we pretend that they are free phenomena, that is to say, that they are not determined necessarily by their causes. Hence the spiritualistic conception of the free will implies that every human being, in spite of the fact that their internal and external conditions are necessarily predetermined, should be able to come to a deliberate decision by the mere fiat of his or her free will, so that, even though the sum of all the causes demands a no, he or she can decide in favor of yes, and vice versa. Now, who is there that thinks, when deliberating some action, what are the causes that determine his choice? We can justly say that the greater part of our actions are determined by habit, that we make up our minds almost from custom, without considering the reason for or against. When we get up in the morning we go about our customary business quite automatically, we perform it as a function in which we do not think of a free will. We think of that only in unusual and grave cases, when we are called upon to make some special choice, the so-called voluntary deliberation, and then we weigh the reasons for or against; we ponder, we hesitate what to do. Well, even in such cases, so little depends on our will in the deliberations which we are about to take that if any one were to ask us one minute before we have decided what we are going to do, we should not know what we were going to decide. So long as we are undecided, we cannot foresee what we are going to decide; for under the conditions in which we live that part of the psychic process takes place outside of our consciousness. And since we do not know its causes, we cannot tell what will be its effects. Only after we have come to a certain decision can we imagine that it was due to our voluntary action. But shortly before we could not tell, and that proves that it did not depend on us alone. Suppose, for instance, that you have decided to play a joke on a fellow-student, and that you carry it out. He takes it unkindly. You are surprised, because that is contrary to his habits and your expectations. But after a while you learn that your friend had received bad news from home on the preceding morning and was therefore not in a condition to feel like joking, and then you say: "If we had known that we should not have decided to spring the joke on him." That is equivalent to saying that, if the balance of your will had been inclined toward the deciding motive of no, you would have decided no; but not knowing that your friend was distressed and not in his habitual frame of mind, you decided in favor of yes. This sentence: "If I had known this I should not have done that" is an outcry of our internal consciousness, which denies the existence of a free will.
On the other hand, nothing is created and nothing destroyed either in matter or in force, because both matter and force are eternal and indestructible. They transform themselves in the most diversified manner, but not an atom is added or taken away, not one vibration more or less takes place. And so if is the force of external and internal circumstances which determines the decision of our will at any given moment. The idea of a free will, however, is a denial of the law of cause and effect, both in the field of philosophy and theology. Saint Augustine and Martin Luther furnish irrefutable theological arguments for the denial of a free will. The omnipotence of God is irreconcilable with the idea of free will. If everything that happens does so because a superhuman and omnipotent power wants it (Not a single leaf falls to the ground without the will of God), how can a son murder his father without the permission and will of God? For this reason Saint Augustine and Martin Luther have written de servo arbitrio.
But since theological arguments serve only those who believe in the concept of a god, which is not given to us by science, we take recourse to the laws which we observe in force and matter, and to the law of causality. If modern science has discovered the universal link which connects all phenomena through cause and effect, which shows that every phenomenon is the result of causes which have preceded it; if this is the law of causality, which is at the very bottom of modern scientific thought, then it is evident that the admission of free thought is equivalent to an overthrow of this law, according to which every effect is proportionate to its cause. In that case, this law, which reigns supreme in the entire universe, would dissolve itself into naught at the feet of the human being, who would create effects with his free will not corresponding to their causes! It was all right to think so at a time when people had an entirely different idea of human beings. But the work of modern science, and its effect on practical life, has resulted in tracing the relations of each one of us with the world and with our fellow beings. And the influence of science may be seen in the elimination of great illusions which in former centuries swayed this or that part of civilized humanity. The scientific thought of Copernicus and Galilei did away with the illusions which led people to believe that the earth was the center of the universe and of creation.
Take Cicero's book de Officiis, or the Divina Commedia of Dante, and you will find that to them the earth is the center of creation, that the infinite stars circle around it, and that man is the king of animals: a geocentric and anthropocentric illusion inspired by immeasurable conceit. But Copernicus and Galilei came and demonstrated that the earth does not stand still, but that it is a grain of cosmic matter hurled into blue infinity and rotating since time unknown around its central body, the sun, which originated from an immense primitive nebula. Galilei was subjected to tortures by those who realized that this new theory struck down many a religious legend and many a moral creed. But Galilei had spoken the truth, and nowadays humanity no longer indulges in the illusion that the earth is the center of creation.
But men live on illusions and give way but reluctantly to the progress of science, in order to devote themselves arduously to the ideal of the new truths which rise out of the essence of things of which mankind is a part. After the geocentric illusion had been destroyed, the anthropocentric illusion still remained. On earth, man was still supposed to be king of creation, the center of terrestrial life. All Species of animals, plants and minerals were supposed to be created expressly for him, and to have had from time immemorial the forms which we see now, so that the fauna and flora living on our planet have always been what they are today. And Cicero, for instance, said that the heavens were placed around the earth and man in order that he might admire the beauty of the starry firmament at night, and that animals and plants were created for his use and pleasure. But in 1856 Charles Darwin came and, summarizing the results of studies that had been carried on for a century, destroyed in the name of science the superb illusion that man is the king and center of creation. He demonstrated, amid the attacks and calumnies of the lovers of darkness, that man is not the king of creation, but merely the last link of the zoological chain, that nature is endowed with eternal energies by which animal and plant life, the same as mineral life (for even in crystals the laws of life are at work), are transformed from the invisible microbe to the highest form, man.
The anthropocentric illusion rebelled against the word of Darwin, accusing him of lowering the human life to the level of the dirt or of the brute. But a disciple of Darwin gave the right answer, while propagating the Darwinian theory at the university of Jena. It was Haeckel, who concluded: "For my part, and so far as my human consciousness is concerned, I prefer to be an immensely perfected ape rather than to be a degenerated and debased Adam."
Gradually the anthropocentric illusion has been compelled to give way before the results of science, and today the theories of Darwin have become established among our ideas. But another illusion still remains, and science, working in the name of reality, will gradually eliminate it, namely the illusion that the nineteenth century has established a permanent order of society. While the geocentric and anthropocentric illusions have been dispelled, the illusion of the immobility and eternity of classes still persists. But it is well to remember that in Holland in the sixteenth century, in England in the seventeenth, in Europe since the revolution of 1789, we have seen that freedom of thought in science, literature and art, for which the bourgeoisie fought, triumphed over the tyranny of the mediaeval dogma. And this condition, instead of being a glorious but transitory stage, is supposed to be the end of the development of humanity, which is henceforth condemned not to perfect itself any more by further changes. This is the illusion which serves as a fundamental argument against the positive school of criminology, since it is claimed that a penal justice enthroned on the foundations of Beccaria and Carrara would be a revolutionary heresy. It is also this illusion which serves as an argument against those who draw the logical consequences in regard to the socialistic future of humanity, for the science which takes its departure front the work of Copernicus, Galilei and Darwin arrives logically at socialism. Socialism is but the natural and physical transformation of the economic and social institutions. Of course, so long as the geocentric and anthropocentric illusions dominate, it is natural that the lore of stability should impress itself upon science and life. How could this living atom, which the human being is, undertake to change that order of creation, which makes of the earth the center of the universe and of man the center of life? Not until science had introduced the conception of a natural formation and transformation, of the solar system, as well as of the fauna and flora, did the human mind grasp the idea that thought and action can transform the world.
For this reason we believe that the study of the criminal, and the logical consequences therefrom, will bring about the complete transformation of human justice, not only as a theory laid down in scientific books, but also as a practical function applied every day to that living and suffering portion of humanity which has fallen into crime. We have the undaunted faith that the work of scientific truth will transform penal justice into a simple function of preserving society from the disease of crime, divested of all relics of vengeance, hatred and punishment, which still survive in our day as living reminders of the barbarian stage. We still hear the "public vengeance" invoked against the criminal today, and justice has still for its symbol a sword, which it uses more than the scales. But a judge born of a woman cannot weigh the moral responsibility of one who has committed murder or theft. Not until the experimental and scientific method shall look for the causes of that dangerous malady, which we call crime, in the physical and psychic organism, and in the family and the environment, of the criminal, will justice guided by science discard the sword which now descends bloody upon those poor fellow-beings who have fallen victims to crime, and become a clinical function, whose prime object shall be to remove or lessen in society and individuals the causes which incite to crime. Then alone will justice refrain from wreaking vengeance, after a crime has been committed, with the shame of an execution or the absurdity of solitary confinement.
On the one hand, human life depends on the word of a judge, who may err in the case of capital punishment; and society cannot end the life of a man, unless the necessity of legitimate self-defense demands it. On the other hand, solitary confinement came in with the second current of the classic school of criminology, when at the same time, in which Beccaria promulgated his ideas, John Howard traveled all over Europe describing the unmentionable horrors of mass imprisonment, which became a center of infection for society at large. Then the classic school went to the other extreme of solitary confinement, after the model of America, whence we adopted the systems of Philadelphia and Harrisburg in the first half of the nineteenth century. Isolation for the night is also our demand, but we object to continuous solitary confinement by day and night. Pasquale Mancini called solitary confinement "a living grave," in order to reassure the timorous, when in the name of the classic school, whose valiant champion he was, he demanded in 1876 the abolition of capital punishment. Yet in his swan song he recognized that the future would belong to the positive school of criminology. And it is this "living grave" against which we protest. It cannot possibly be an act of human justice to bury a human being in a narrow cell, within four walls, to prevent this being from having any contact with social life, and to say to him at the end of his term: Now that your lungs are no longer accustomed to breathing the open air, now that your legs are no longer used to the rough roads, go, but take care not, to have a relapse, or your sentence will be twice as hard.
In reality, solitary confinement makes of a human being either a stupid creature, or a raving beast. And "s'io dico il vero, l'effeto nol nasconde"—if I speak the truth, the facts will also reveal it—for criminality increases and expands, honest people remain unprotected, and those who are struck by the law do not improve, but become ever more antisocial through the repeated relapses. And so we have that contrast which I mentioned in the beginning of my lecture, that the theoretical side of criminal science is so perfected, while criminal conditions are painfully in evidence. The inevitable conclusion is the necessity of a progressive transformation of the science of crime and punishment.
We saw yesterday in a short historical review that the classic cycle of the science of crime and punishment, originated by Cesare Beccaria more than a century ago, was followed in our country, some twenty years since, by the scientific movement of the positive school of criminology. Let us see today how this school studied the problem of criminality, reserving for tomorrow the discussion of the remedies proposal by this school for the disease of criminality.
When a crime is committed in some place, attracting public attention either through the atrocity of the case or the strangeness of the criminal deed—for instance, one that is not connected with bloodshed, but with intellectual fraud—there are at once two tendencies that make themselves felt in the public conscience. One of them, pervading the overwhelming majority of individual consciences, asks: How is this? What for? Why did that man commit such a crime? This question is asked by everybody and occupies mostly the attention of those who do not look upon the case from the point of view of criminology. On the other hand, those who occupy themselves with criminal law represent the other tendency, which manifests itself when acquainted with the news of this crime. This is a limited portion of the public conscience, which tries to study the problem from the standpoint of the technical jurist. The lawyers, the judges, the officials of the police, ask themselves: What is the name of the crime committed by that man under such circumstances? Must it be classed us murder or patricide, attempted or incompleted manslaughter, and, if directed against property, is it theft, or illegal appropriation, or fraud? And the entire apparatus of practical criminal justice forgets at once the first problem, which occupies the majority of the public conscience, the question of the causes that led to this crime, in order to devote itself exclusively to the technical side of the problem which constitutes the juridical anatomy of the inhuman and antisocial deed perpetrated by the criminal.
In these two tendencies you have a photographic reproduction of the two schools of criminology. The classic school, which looks upon the crime as a juridical problem, occupies itself with its name, its definition, its juridical analysis, leaves the personality of the criminal in the background and remembers it only so far as exceptional circumstances explicitly stated in the law books refer to it: whether he is a minor, a deaf-mute, whether it is a case of insanity, whether he was drunk at the time the crime was committed. Only in these strictly defined cases does the classic school occupy itself theoretically with the personality of the criminal. But ninety times in one hundred these exceptional circumstances do not exist or cannot be shown to exist, and penal justice limits itself to the technical definition of the fact. But when the case comes up in the criminal court, or before the jurors, practice demonstrates that there is seldom a discussion between the lawyers of the defense and the judges for the purpose of ascertaining the most exact definition of the fact, of determining whether it is a case of attempted or merely projected crime, of finding out whether there are any of the juridical elements defined in this or that article of the code. The judge is rather face to face with the problem of ascertaining why, under what conditions, for what reasons, the man has committed the crime. This is the supreme and simple human problem. But hitherto it has been left to a more or less perspicacious, more or less gifted, empiricism, and there have been no scientific standards, no methodical collection of facts, no observations and conclusions, save those of the positive school of criminology. This school alone makes an attempt to solve in every case of crime the problem of its natural origin, of the reasons and conditions that induced a man to commit such and such a crime.
For instance, about 3,000 cases of manslaughter are registered every year in Italy. Now, open any work inspired by the classic school of criminology, and ask the author why 3,000 men are the victims of manslaughter every year in Italy, and how it is that there are not sometimes only as many as, say, 300 cases, the number committed in England, which has nearly the same number of inhabitants as Italy; and how it is that there are not sometimes 300,000 such cases in Italy instead of 3,000?
It is useless to open any work of classical criminology for this purpose, for you will not find an answer to these questions in than. No one, from Beccaria to Carrara, has ever thought of this problem, and they could not have asked it, considering their point of departure and their method. In fact, the classic criminologists accept the phenomenon of criminality as an accomplished fact. They analyze it from the point of view of the technical jurist, without asking how this criminal fact may have been produced, and why it repeats itself in greater or smaller numbers from year to year, in every country. The theory of a free will, which is their foundation, excludes the possibility of this scientific question, for according to it the crime is the product of the fiat of the human will. And if that is admitted as a fact, there is nothing left to account for. The manslaughter was committed, because the criminal wanted to commit it; and that is all there is to it. Once the theory of a free will is accepted as a fact, the deed depends on the fiat, the voluntary determination, of the criminal, and all is said.
But if, on the other hand, the positive school of criminology denies, on the ground of researches in scientific physiological psychology, that the human will is free and does not admit that one is a criminal because he wants to be, but declares that a man commits this or that crime only when he lives in definitely determined conditions of personality and environment which induce him necessarily to act in a certain way, then alone does the problem of the origin of criminality begin to be submitted to a preliminary analysis, and then alone does criminal law step out of the narrow and arid limits of technical jurisprudence and become a true social and human science in the highest and noblest meaning of the word. It is vain to insist with such stubbornness as that of the classic school of criminology on juristic formulas by which the distinction between illegal appropriation and theft, between fraud and other forms of crime against property, and so forth, is determined, when this method does not give to society one single word which would throw light upon the reasons that make a man a criminal and upon the efficacious remedy by which society could protect itself against criminality.
It is true that the classic school of criminology has likewise its remedy against crime—namely, punishment. But this is the only remedy of that school, and in all the legislation inspired by the theories of that school in all the countries of the civilized world there is no other remedy against crime but repression.
But Bentham has said: Every time that punishment is inflicted it proves its inefficacy, for it did not prevent the committal of that crime. Therefore, this remedy is worthless. And a deeper study of the cause of crime demonstrates that if a man does not commit a certain crime, this is due to entirely different reasons, than a fear of the penalty, very strong and fundamental reasons which are not to be found in the threats of legislators. These threats, if nevertheless carried out by police and prison keepers, run counter to those conditions. A man who intends to commit a crime, or who is carried away by a violent passion, by a psychological hurricane which drowns his moral sense, is not checked by threats of punishment, because the volcanic eruption of passion prevents him from reflecting. Or he may decide to commit a crime after due premeditation and preparation, and in that case the penalty is powerless to check him, because he hopes to escape with impunity. All criminals will tell you unanimously that the only thing which impelled them when they were deliberating a crime was the expectation that they would go scot free. If they had but the least suspicion that they might be detected and punished they would not have committed the crime. The only exception is the case in which a crime is the result of a mental explosion caused by a violent outburst of passion. And if you wish to have a very convincing illustration of the psychological inefficacy of legal threats, you have but to think of that curious crime which has now assumed a frequency never known to former centuries, namely the making of counterfeit money. For since paper money—from want or for reasons of expediency—has become a substitute of metal coin in the civilized countries, the making of counterfeit paper money has become very frequent in the nineteenth century. Now a counterfeiter, in committing his crime, must compel his mind to imitate closely the inscription of the bill, letter for letter, including that threatening passage, which says: "The law punishes counterfeiting ..." etc. Can you see before your mind's eye a counterfeiter, in the act of engraving on the stone or the others may ignore the penalty that awaits them, but he cannot. This illustration is convincing, for in cases of other crimes one may always assume that the criminal acted without thinking of the future, even when he was not in a transport of passion. But in the case of the counterfeiter the very act of committing the crime reminds him of the threat of the law, and yet he is imperturbable while perpetrating it.
Crime has its natural causes, which lie outside of that mathematical point called the free will of the criminal. Aside from being a juridical phenomenon, which it would be well to examine by itself, every crime is above all a natural and social phenomenon, and should be studied primarily as such. We need not go through so hard a course of study merely for the purpose of walking over the razor edge of juristic definitions and to find out, for instance, that from the time Romagnosi made a distinction between incompleted and attempted crime rivers of ink have been spilled in the attempt to find the distinguishing elements of these two degrees of crime. And finally, when the German legislator concluded to make no distinction between incompleted and attempted crime and to recognize only the completed crime in his code of 1871, we witnessed the spectacle of Carrara praising that legislator for leaving that subtile distinction out of his code. A strange conclusion on the part of a science, which cudgels its brains for a century to find the marks of distinction between attempted and incompleted crime, and then praises the legislator for ignoring it. And another classic jurist, Buccellati, proposed to do away with the theory of attempted crime by simply defining it as a crime by itself, or as—a violation of police laws! A science which comes to such conclusions is a science which moves in metaphysical abstractions, and we shall see that all these finespun questions which abound in classical science lose all practical value before the necessity of saving society from the plague of crime.
The method which we, on the other hand, have inaugurated is the following: Before we study crime from the point of view of a juristic phenomenon, we must study the causes to which the annual recurrence of crimes in all countries is due. These are natural causes, which I have classified under the three heads of anthropological, telluric and social. Every crime, from the smallest to the most atrocious, is the result of the interaction of these three causes, the anthropological condition of the criminal, the telluric environment in which he is living, and the social environment in which he is born, living and operating. It is a vain beginning to separate the meshes of this net of criminality. There are still those who would maintain the one-sided standpoint that the origin of crime may be traced to only one of these elements, for instance, to the social element alone. So far as I am concerned, I have combatted this opinion from the very inauguration of the positive school of criminology, and I combat it today. It is certainly easy enough to think that the entire origin of all crime is due to the unfavorable social conditions in which the criminal lives. But an objective, methodical, observation demonstrates that social conditions alone do not suffice to explain the origin of criminality, although it is true that the prevalence of the influence of social conditions is an incontestable fact in the case of the greater number of crimes, especially of the lesser ones. But there are crimes which cannot be explained by the influence of social conditions alone. If you regard the general condition of misery as the sole source of criminality, then you cannot get around the difficulty that out of one thousand individuals living in misery from the day of their birth to that of their death only one hundred or two hundred become criminals, while the other nine hundred or eight hundred either sink into biological weakness, or become harmless maniacs, or commit suicide without perpetrating any crime. If poverty were the sole determining cause, one thousand out of one thousand poor ought to become criminals. If only two hundred become criminals, while one hundred commit suicide, one hundred end as maniacs, and the other six hundred remain honest in their social condition, then poverty alone is not sufficient to explain criminality. We must add the anthropological and telluric factor. Only by means of these three elements of natural influence can criminality be explained. Of course, the influence of either the anthropological or telluric or social element varies from case to case. If you have a case of simple theft, you may have a far greater influence of the social factor than of the anthropological factor. On the other hand, if you have a case of murder, the anthropological element will have a far greater influence than the social. And so on in every case of crime, and every individual that you will have to judge on the bench of the criminal.
The anthropological factor. It is precisely here that the genius of Cesare Lombroso established a new science, because in his search after the causes of crime he studied the anthropological condition of the criminal. This condition concerns not only the organic and anatomical constitution, but also the psychological, it represents the organic and psychological personality of the criminal. Every one of us inherits at birth, and personifies in life, a certain organic and psychological combination. This constitutes the individual factor of human activity, which either remains normal through life, or becomes criminal or insane. The anthropological factor, then, must not be restricted, as some laymen would restrict it, to the study of the form of the skull or the bones of the criminal. Lombroso had to begin his studies with the anatomical conditions of the criminal, because the skulls may be studied most easily in the museums. But he continued by also studying the brain and the other physiological conditions of the individual, the state of sensibility, and the circulation of matter. And this entire series of studies is but a necessary scientific introduction to the study of the psychology of the criminal, which is precisely the one problem that is of direct and immediate importance. It is this problem which the lawyer and the public prosecutor should solve before discussing the juridical aspect of any crime, for this reveals the causes which induced the criminal to commit a crime. At present there is no methodical standard for a psychological investigation, although such an investigation was introduced into the scope of classic penal law. But for this reason the results of the positive school penetrate into the lecture rooms of the universities of jurisprudence, whenever a law is required for the judicial arraignment of the criminal as a living and feeling human being. And even though the positive school is not mentioned, all profess to be studying the material furnished by it, for instance, its analyses of the sentiments of the criminal, his moral sense, his behavior before, during and after the criminal act, the presence of remorse which people, judging the criminal after their own feelings, always suppose the criminal to feel, while, in fact, it is seldom present. This is the anthropological factor, which may assume a pathological form, in which case articles 46 and 47 of the penal code remember that there is such a thing as the personality of the criminal. However, aside from insanity, there are thousands of other organic and psychological conditions of the personality of criminals, which a judge might perhaps lump together under the name of extenuating circumstances, but which science desires to have thoroughly investigated. This is not done today, and for this reason the idea of extenuating circumstances constitutes a denial of justice.
This same anthropological factor also includes that which each one of us has: the race character. Nowadays the influence of race on the destinies of peoples and persons is much discussed in sociology, and there are one-sided schools that pretend to solve the problems of history and society by means of that racial influence alone, to which they attribute an absolute importance. But while there are some who maintain that the history of peoples is nothing but the exclusive product of racial character, there are others who insist that the social conditions of peoples and individuals are alone determining. The one is as much a one-sided and incomplete theory as the other. The study of collective society or of the single individual has resulted in the understanding that the life of society and of the individual is always the product of the inextricable net of the anthropological, telluric and social elements. Hence the influence of the race cannot be ignored in the study of nations and personalities, although it is not the exclusive factor which would suffice to explain the criminality of a nation or an individual. Study, for instance, manslaughter in Italy, and, although you will find it difficult to isolate one of the factors of criminality from the network of the other circumstances and conditions that produce it, yet there are such eloquent instances of the influence of racial character, that it would be like denying the existence of daylight if one tried to ignore the influence of the ethnical factor on criminality.
In Italy there are two currents of criminality, two tendencies which are almost diametrically opposed to one another. The crimes due to hot blood and muscle grow in intensity from northern to southern Italy, while the crimes against property increase from south to north. In northern Italy, where movable property is more developed, the crime of theft assumes a greater intensity, while crimes due to conditions of the blood are decreasing on account of the lesser poverty and the resulting lesser degeneration of the people. In the south, on the other hand, crimes against property are less frequent and crimes of blood more frequent. Still there also are in southern Italy certain cases where criminality of the blood is less frequent, and you cannot explain this in any other way than by the influence of racial character. If you take a geographical map of manslaughter in Italy, you will see that from the minimum, from Lombardy, Piedmont, and Venice, the intensity increases until it reaches its maximum in the insular and peninsular extreme of the south. But even there you will find certain cases in which manslaughter shows a lesser intensity.
For instance, the province of Benevent is surrounded by other provinces which show a maximum of crimes due to conditions of blood, while it registers a smaller number. Naples, again, shows a considerably smaller number of such cases than the provinces surrounding it, but it has a greater number of unpremeditated cases of manslaughter. Messina, Catania and Syracuse have a remarkably smaller number of blood crimes than Trapani, Girgenti and Palermo. It has been attempted to claim that this difference in criminality is due to social condition's, because the agricultural conditions in eastern Sicily are less degrading than those of Girgenti and Trapani, where the sulphur mines compel the miners to live miserably. But we should like to ask the following question in opposition to this idea: Why and in what respect are the agricultural conditions in some provinces better than in others? This condition is merely itself a result, not a cause of the first degree.
Since the theory of historical materialism, which I prefer to call economic determinism, has demonstrated that political, moral and intellectual phenomena are reactions on the economic conditions of any time and place, the attempt has been made to interpret this theory very narrowly and to pretend that the economic condition of a nation is a primary cause and not determined by any other. For my part, ever since I have demonstrated the perfect accord between the Marxian and the Darwinian theories, I have said: Very well, the economic conditions of a nation explain its political, moral, intellectual conditions, but the economic condition is in its turn the result of other factors. For instance, how can the industrialism of England in the nineteenth century be explained? Take away the coal mines (the telluric environment), and you could not have the economic conditions of England as they are. For the economic conditions are a result of favorable or unfavorable telluric conditions which are acted upon by the intelligence and energy of a certain race. Catania, Messina, Syracuse, are in a better economic condition, because they have better geographical conditions and a different race (of Grecian blood) than the other Sicilian provinces. So it is in Apulia and Naples, which have likewise a considerable mixture of Grecian blood. The northern tourists are still attracted by our art and visit the ruins of Taormina or Pesto, which are the relics of the Grecian race. And it is the Grecian blood which explains the lesser frequency of bloody crimes in those provinces. This is therefore evidently the influence of the race. And I maintain that the same fact is due in the province of Benevent to the admixture of Langobardian blood. For the Duchy of Benevent has had an influx of Langobardian elements since the seventh century. And as we know that the German and Anglo-Saxon race has the smallest tendency towards bloody crimes, the beneficial influence of this racial character in Benevent explains itself. On the other hand, there is much Saracen blood in the western and southern provinces of Sicily, and this explains the greater number of bloody crimes there. It is evident that the organic character of the inhabitants of that island, where you may still see the brutal and barbarian features of the Saracen by the side of those of the blond, cool and quiet Norman, contains a transfusion of the blood of diverse races. But it is also true that wherever a certain race has been predominant, there its influence is left behind in the individual and collective life.
Let this be enough so far as the anthropological factor of criminality is concerned. There are, furthermore, the telluric factors, that is to say, the physical environment in which we live and to which we pay no attention. It requires much philosophy, said Rousseau, to note the things with which we are in daily contact, because the habitual influence of a thing makes it more difficult to be aware of it. This applies also to the immediate influence of the physical conditions on human morality, notwithstanding the spiritualist prejudices which still weigh upon our daily lives. For instance, if it is claimed in the name of supernaturalism and psychism that a man is unhappy because he is vicious, it is equivalent to making a one-sided statement. For it is just as true to say that a man becomes vicious because he is unhappy. Want is the strongest poison for the human body and soul. It is the fountain head of all inhuman and antisocial feeling. Where want spreads out its wings, there the sentiments of love, of affection, of brotherhood, are impossible.
Take a look at the figures of the peasant in the far-off arid Campagna, the little government employee, the laborer, the little shop-keeper. When work is assured, when living is certain, though poor, then want, cruel want, is in the distance, and every good sentiment can germinate and develop in the human heart. The family then lives in a favorable environment, the parents agree, the children are affectionate. And when the laborer, a bronzed statue of humanity, returns from, his smoky shop and meets his white-haired mother, the embodiment of half a century of immaculate virtue and heroic sacrifices, then he can, tired, but assured of his daily bread, give room to feelings of affection, and he will cordially invite his mother to share his frugal meal. But let the same man, in the same environment, be haunted by the spectre of want and lack of employment, and you will see the moral atmosphere in his family changing as from day into night. There is no work, and the laborer comes home without any wages. The wife, who does not know how to feed the children, reproaches her husband with the suffering of his family. The man, having been turned away from the doors of ten offices, feels his dignity as an honest laborer assailed in the very bosom of his own family, because he has vainly asked society for honest employment. And the bonds of affection and union are loosened in that family. Its members no longer agree. There are too many children, and when the poor old mother approaches her son, she reads in his dark and agitated mien the lack of tenderness and feels in her mother heart that her boy, poisoned by the spectre of want, is perhaps casting evil looks at her and harboring the unfilial thought: "Better an open grave in the cemetery than one mouth more to feed at home!"
It is true, that want alone is not sufficient to prepare the soil in the environment of that suffering family for the roots of real crime and to develop it. Want will weaken the love and mutual respect among the members of that family, but it will not be strong enough alone to arm the hands of the man for a matricidal deed, unless he should get into a pathological mental condition, which is very exceptional and rare. But the conclusions of the positive school are confirmed in this case as in any other. In order that crime may develop, it is necessary that anthropological, social and telluric factors should act together.
We generally forget the conditions of the physical environment in which we live, because supernatural prejudice tells us that the body is a beast which we must forget in order to elevate ourselves into a spiritual life. Manzoni could designate the Middle Ages by the term "dirty." because they neglected the demands of elementary hygiene, and thus of human morality. For where the requirements of our physical body are neglected or offended, there no flower can bloom. The telluric environment has a great influence on our physical activity, by way of our nervous system. We feel differently disposed, according to whether a south or a north wind blows. When Garibaldi was on the Pampas, he observed that his companions were irascible and prone to violent quarrels, when the Pampero blew, and that their behavior changed, when this wind ceased. The great founders of criminal statistics, Quetelet and Guerry, observed that the change of seasons carried with it a change in criminality. Sexual crimes are less frequent in winter than in spring and summer. And with reference to this point I have maintained, and still maintain, that it is due to the combined effects of temperature and social conditions, if crimes against property increase in winter. For lack of employment, the want of food and shelter, intensify the misery and lead to attacks on property. On the other hand, the cold by itself reduces sexual crimes and personal assaults. And those who claim that the longer intercourse between people in summer time has also a social influence, are also partly in the right.
The most eloquent fact in this respect was mentioned by Murro, when he pointed out that this change in the frequency of bloody crimes, greater in the warm months than in winter, applied also to prisoners. Statistics show that breach of discipline is most frequent in hot seasons. The social factor does not enter there, because the social life is there the same in winter and in summer. This is, therefore, a practical proof of the influence of climate, and it is re-enforced by the fact that delirium and epilepsy in insane asylums are also more frequent in hot than in cold months. The influence of the telluric factors, then, cannot be denied, and the influence of the social factor intensifies it, as I have already shown by its most drastic and characteristic example, that of want. One can, therefore, understand that a man, whose morality has been shaken by the pressure of increasing want, may be led to commit a crime against property or persons.
It is certainly quite evident, that economic misery has an undeniable influence on criminality. And if you consider, that about 300,000 criminals are sentenced in Italy every year, 180,000 of them for minor crimes, and 120,000 for crimes which belong to the gravest class, you can easily see that the greater part of them due mainly to social conditions, for which it should not be so very difficult to find a remedy. The work of the legislator may be slow, difficult, and inadequate, so far as the telluric and anthropological factors are concerned. But it could surely be rapid, efficacious and prompt, so far as the social factors influencing criminality are concerned.
We have now demonstrated that crime has its natural source in the combined interaction of three classes of causes, the anthropological (organic and psychological) factor, the telluric factor, and the social factor. And by this last factor we must not only mean want, but any other condition of administrative instability in political, moral, and intellectual life. Every social condition which makes the life of man in society insincere and imperfect is a social factor contributing towards criminality. The economic factor is in evidence in our civilization wherever the law of free competition, which is but a form of disguised cannibalism, establishes the rule: Your death is my life. The competition of laborers for a limited number of places is equivalent to saying that those who secure a living do so at the expense of those who do not. And this is a disguised form of cannibalism. While it does not devour the competitor as primitive mankind did, it paralyzes him by calumnies, recommendations, protection, money, which, secure the place for the best bargainer and leave the most honest, talented, and self-respecting to the pangs of starvation.
Moreover, the economic factor exerts its crime-breeding influence also under the form of a superabundance of wealth. Indeed, in our present society, which is in the downward stage of transition from glorious bourgeois civilization, which constituted a golden page of human history in the 19th century, wealth itself is a source of crime. For the rich, who do not enjoy the advantage of manual or intellectual work, suffer from the corruption of leisure and vice. Gambling throws them into an unhealthy fever; the struggle and race for money poison their daily lives. And although the rich may keep out of reach of the penal code, still they have condemned themselves to a life devoted to hypocritical ceremonies, which are devoid of moral sentiment. And this life leads them to a sportive form of criminality. To cheat at gambling is the inevitable fate of these parasites. In order to kill time they give themselves up to games of chance, and those who do not care for that devote themselves to the sport of adultery, which in that class is a pastime even among the best friends, on account of sheer mental poverty. And all because man's mind unoccupied is the devil's own forge, as the English poet says.
We have now surveyed briefly the natural genesis of crime, as a natural social phenomenon, brought about by the interaction of anthropological, telluric, and social influences, which in any determined moment act upon a personality standing on the cross road of vice and virtue, crime and honesty. This scientific deduction gives rise to a series of investigations which satisfy the mind and supply it with a real understanding of things, far better than the theory that a man is a criminal because he wants to be. No, a man commits crime because he finds himself in certain physical and social conditions, from which the evil plant of crime takes life and strength. Thus we obtain the origin of that sad human figure which is the product of the interaction of those factors, an abnormal man, a man not adapted to the conditions of the social environment in which he is born, so that emigration becomes an ever more permanent phenomenon for the greater portion of men, for whom the accident of birth will less and less determine the course of their future life. And the abnormal man who is below the minimum of adaptability to social life and bears the marks of organic degeneration, develops either a passive or an aggressive form of abnormality and becomes a criminal.
Among these abnormal human beings, two groups must be particularly distinguished. Limiting our observations to those who are true aggressively antisocial abnormals, that is to say, who are not adapted to a certain social order and attack it by crimes, we must distinguish those who for egoistic or ferocious reasons attack society by atavistic forms of the struggle for existence by committing socalled common crimes in the shape of fraud or violence, thereby opposing or abolishing conditions in which their fellow beings may live. This is the atavistic type of criminals which represents an involutionary, or retrogressive, form of abnormality, due to an arrested development or an atavistic reversion to a savage and primitive type. These constitute the majority in the world of criminals and must be distinguished from the minority, who are evolutionary, or progressive, abnormals, that may also commit crime in a violent form, but must not be confounded with the others, because they do not act from egoistic motives, but rebel from altruistic motives against the injustice of the present order. These altruistic criminals feel the sufferings and horrors due to the injustice surrounding them and may go so far as to commit murder, which must always be condemned, but which must not be confounded with atavistic or egoistic murder. Recourse to personal violence is always objectionable from the point of view of higher manhood, which desires that human life should always be held in respect. But the reasons for such a crime are different, being egoistic in the one, and altruistic in the other case. The evolutionary abnormal is often an instrument of human progress, not in the form of criminality, but in that of intellectual and moral rebellion against conditions which are sanctioned by laws that frequently punish such an evolutionary rebellion harder than atavistic crime, as they do in Russia, where capital punishment has been abolished for common crimes, but retained for political violations of the law! We are living in an epoch of transition from the old to the new, and contemporaneous humanity has an uneasy moral conscience in this critical time. The ruling classes are losing their clearness of vision, so that they promise monuments to those political murderers who promoted their own historical victories, but would condemn like any common criminal him who now devotes his soul to a revolutionary ideal, would throw into prison the pioneer of new human ideals, just as Russia is excommunicating the rebel Tolstoi. I mention Leo Tolstoi advisedly for the purpose of giving a precise illustration of my heterodox thought in reference to this question. We are opposed to any form of personal violence (with the sole exception of self-defense), we cannot approve of any form of personal assault, no matter what may be its motive. Therefore we cannot have words of praise or excuse for political murder, though it may be inspired by altruistic motives. We can demand that the legislator should distinguish between the psychological sources of these two forms of murder, the egoistic and the altruistic form. But we condemn them both, because they are inhuman forms of violence. Ideas do not make victorious headway by force of arms. Ideas must be combatted by ideas, and it is only by the propaganda of the idea that we can prepare humanity for its future. Violence is always a means of preventing the sincere and fruitful diffusion of an idea. We do not say this merely for the abnormals of the lower classes. We refer with scientific serenity also to the upper classes, who would suppress by violence every manifestation of revolt against the social iniquities, every affirmation of faith in a better future.
This is the conception of our science, which thus succeeds in distinguishing traits of character even among the unlucky and forlorn people of the criminal world, while the classic school of criminology regards a criminal as a sort of abstract and normal man, with the exception of cases of minors, deaf mutes, inebriates, and maniacs.
In fact, the classic school of criminology regards all thieves as THE thief, all murderers as THE murderer, and the human shape disappears in the mind of the legislator, while it re-appears before the judge. Before the essayist and legislator, the criminal is a sort of moving dummy, on whose hack the judge may paste an article of the penal code. If you leave out of consideration the established cases of exceptional and rare human psychology mentioned in the penal code, all other cases serve the judge merely as an excuse to select from the criminal code the number of that article which will fit the criminal dummy, and if he should paste 404 instead of 407 on its back, the court of appeals would resist, any change of numbers. And if this dummy came to life and said: "The question of my number may be very important for you, but if you would study all the conditions that compelled me to take other people's things, you would realize that this importance is very diagrammatic," the judge would answer: "That's all right for the justice of the future, but it isn't now. You are number 404 of the criminal code, and after leaving this court room with this number pasted legally on your back, you will receive another number, for you will enter prison as number 404 and will exchange it for entry number 1525, or some other, because your personality as a man disappears entirely before the enactment of social justice!" And then it is pretended that this man, whose personality is thus absurdly ignored, should leave prison cured of all degeneration, and if he falls back into the path of thorns of his misery and commits another crime, the judge simply pastes another article over the other, by adding number 80 or 81, which refer to cases of relapse, to number 404!