Skip to comments.Progressivism and the Lethal Chamber
Posted on 07/23/2012 11:41:28 AM PDT by ProgressingAmerica
You cannot expect to raise beautiful roses in a field choked with weeds.- Charles Vickery Drysdale, as quoted in "Eugenics marriage and birth control (Practical Eugenics)".
Edwin Black, Author of the book "War Against the Weak - Eugenics and America's Campaign to Create a Master Race" has a great article titled Government Death Panels and Mass Murder Were Always an Option in 20th Century in which he goes into detail about that very thing.
There are also a handful of things in here that I've found on my own, on the same subject.
I don't need to restate Black's words, what I want to do is originally source the quotes, though some things(even public domain/not in copyright material) are not available online and thus, I cannot source them. So this posting will have better structure if you've read along with Black's article. In some instances, I grab much more from the source and expand on it larger than Black does, because it goes right into progressive ideology. It should be stated that a lot of this lethal chamber nonsense came from Britain. It should also be stated that while the majority of eugenic ideals were fervently sought by progressives, there were a handful of people who weren't progressive who got caught up in it, and there were plenty of progressives who felt that the lethal chamber wasn't ideal for dealing with defectives.
Heredity and human progress, By W. Duncan McKim, Pages 192-193:
The roll, then, of those whom our plan would eliminate consists of the following classes of individuals coming under the absolute control of the State : idiots, imbeciles, epileptics, habitual drunkards, and insane criminals; the larger number of murderers; nocturnal house-breakers ; such criminals, whatever their offence, as might through their constitutional organization appear very dangerous; and, finally, criminals who might be adjudged incorrigible. Each individual of these classes would undergo thorough examination, and only by due process of law would his life be taken from him.
The painless extinction of these lives would present no practical difficulty : in carbonic acid gas we have an agent which would instantaneously fulfil the need.
He doesn't use the phrase 'lethal chamber', but talking about acid gasses makes it clear that's what he's referring to. But what I bolded is the ideological component. Big, nasty, progressive government who literally takes full control over people, including those who have committed no crime. Just by having "the wrong genetics" are these people put under the thumb of tyranny.
Keep in mind, this is the remedy chapter. Also in the remedy chapter, a few pages up, Page 188:
It is thus by an artificial selection that it is proposed to elevate the human race. While not interfering with the general productiveness of our kind, I would limit the multiplication of the organically weak and the organically vicious, restricting the plan, however, to the very weak and the very vicious who fall into the hands of the State for maintenance, reformation, or punishment. The surest, the simplest, the kindest, and most humane means for preventing reproduction among those whom we deem unworthy of this high privilege, is a gentle painless death; and this should be administered not as a punishment, but as an expression of enlightened pity for the victims too defective by nature to find true happiness in life and as a duty toward the community and toward our own offspring.
Progressives usually do think they're the most enlightened among us, the elites.
In E. B. Sherlocks book, The Feebleminded: a guide to study and practice he makes it clear that this idea of lethal chambers is fairly widely discussed: (Page 267)
Glib suggestions of the erection of lethal chambers are common enough, being, indeed, the ordinary sequel to the first introduction of the unthinking to cases of profound idiocy. Apart from the difficulty that the provision of lethal chambers is impracticable in the existing state of the law, the scope of the procedure is so restricted that it promises no more, as a set-off to outraged feelings of humanity than the saving of the relatively small sum which the housing and feeding of a few short-lived idiots costs society.
Note the wording of this. He's complaining that people would be sympathetic to the defective because of lethal chambers, so that's why we shouldn't do it.(as well as the financials)
In the notorious "Kallikak Family" study, Henry H. Goddard doesn't reject the lethal chamber outright on it's merits: (page 101)
What can we do ? For the low-grade idiot, the loathsome unfortunate that may be seen in our institutions, some have proposed the lethal chamber. But humanity is steadily tending away from the possibility of that method, and there is no probability that it will ever be practiced.
It's because society would reject it. That's why we can't use it. So his suggestion is instead: (page 105)
Before considering any other method, the writer would insist that segregation and colonization is not by any means as hopeless a plan as it may seem to those who look only at the immediate increase in the tax rate. If such colonies were provided in sufficient number to take care of all the distinctly feeble-minded cases in the community, they would very largely take the place of our present almshouses and prisons, and they would greatly decrease the number in our insane hospitals.
Again, this involves bigger and bigger government.
The non-profit Carnegie Institute funded a great deal of eugenics related items. "The Committee of the Eugenic Section of the American Breeders Association to Study and to Report on the Best Practical Means for Cutting Off the Defective Germ-Plasm in the Human Population"(say that three times fast) Report item number 8 can be found on page 55 in one of the eugenical bulletins coming out of Cold Spring Harbor, New York:
(8) Euthanasia. The ancient Spartans were a race of fighters. The business of the Spartan mothers was to grow soldiers for the State, and Spartan social life and customs appear to have been vell directed toward this end. However much we deprecate Spartan ideals and her means of advancing them, we must admire her courage in so rigorously applying so practical a system of selection.
Again it's hard to miss the progressive love of the state intertwined into the issue.
William Robinson was very clear about what to do with defective children in his book "Practical Eugenics", page 78:
From the point of view of abstract justice, and of the greatest good not only to the greatest but to the whole number, the best thing would be to gently chloroform these children or to give them a dose of potassium cyanide, but in our humane and civilized age such measures are not looked upon with favor.
Note how many of these eugenists worry about having society stop them and the things they want to do. It's not that the idea is bad, it's your fault for being a potential threat to the scheme.
While on the topic of chloroforming people to death, I posted something similar to this a while ago as a proposal for the "unemployable".
I have posted repeatedly about Theodore Roosevelt's view that Americans should be bred like cattle, and from the "Official proceedings of the National Conference on Race Betterment", we have the following: (page 502)
Furthermore, this being true, it must be conceded by all thinking persons at all conversant with biological principles that selection plays the same role in directing the course of heredity, that is, the surviving line of germ-plasm that it always has. Note that I say selection here rather than natural selection, for the latter term is associated in many minds with the crude methods of Nature uninfluenced by sentient forces. Will anyone deny that the animal or plant breeder utilizes the same principles of selection in breeding his cattle or his corn that have in Nature brought about the evolution of one form from another? The difference is that instead of being natural selection it is now conscious selection on the part of the breeder, and he directs the processes of change, in so far as his art enables him, along the lines which his needs or his fancy direct.
And he does mean applying this to
humans defectives: (Page 503)
Death is the normal process of elimination in the social organism, and we might carry the figure a step further and say that in prolonging the lives of defectives we are tampering with the functioning of the social kidneys!
As I've noted in the past (paragraph 3), and with progressive eugenists it's no different: everything with these people is social. Now we have social organisms and social kidneys.
In "Applied Eugenics", Paul Popenoe puts out mixed signals: (page 184)
From an historical point of view the first method which presents itself is execution. This has been used since the beginning of the race, very probably, although rarely with a distinct understanding of its eugenic effect; and its value in keeping up the standard of the race should not be underestimated. It is a method the use of which prevents the rectification of mistakes. There are arguments against it on other grounds, which need not be discussed here, since it suffices to say that to put to death defectives or delinquents is wholly out of accord with the spirit of the times, and is not seriously considered by the eugenics movement. The next possible method is castration. This has practically nothing to recommend it, except that it is effective - an argument that can also be made for the "lethal chamber." The objections against it are overwhelming. It has hardly been advocated, even by extremists, save for those whose sexual instincts are extremely disordered; but such advocacy is based on ignorance of the results.
In Madison Grant's book "The Passing of the Great Race"(A book which Theodore Roosevelt was a huge fan of), the following is written: (page 49)
Mistaken regard for what are believed to be divine laws and a sentimental belief in the sanctity of human life tend to prevent both the elimination of defective infants and the sterilization of such adults as are themselves of no value to the community. The laws of nature require the obliteration of the unfit and human life is valuable only when it is of use to the community or race.
Note the high regard for "the community" and very low regard for individuals.
The entire account(what appears to be) of the Bollinger Baby can be found in the The American ecclesiastical review for 1916, starting on page 68. What's interesting to me about the Bollinger Case is that it happened in Chicago. Progressives killing babies in Chicago is not as new of a storyline as you think it is.
Black mentions the following things as being listed in an article in Institution Quarterly, Illinoiss own journal and sure enough, it's in there. But for whatever reason this book isn't readable, so the contents can be seen elsewhere: (page 111)
If they live to become confirmed criminals it would be an act of kindness to them and a protection to the state if they could be killed. The state should not deal with criminals in the spirit of vengeance, but in the spirit of mercy, and protection for if they are dealt with otherwise the actor also becomes criminal.
A few paragraphs down:
It is my opinion that children of all parentage should at puberty pass physical examination in order that the state may know at the beginning of life whether they are fit persons to bring children into the world. If such a law were passed - and I believe the day will come when it will be - it would prevent much crime and physical misery. With as much care in the propagation of humanity as the farmer exercises in the selection of his cattle and hogs much misery would be prevented, and criminals and all others of the defective class would become scarce.
Ah yes, just imagine how huge of a government would be necessary to make all of this happen.
As is noted(rather surprisingly), Margaret Sanger was not in favor of lethal chambers. At least for children. Note how she makes the clear distinction: On page 100-101 she wrote the following:
The advocate of Birth Control realizes as well as all intelligent thinkers the dangers of interfering with personal liberty. Our whole philosophy is, in fact, based upon the fundamental assumption that man is a self-conscious, self-governing creature, that he should not be treated as a domestic animal; that he must be left free, at least within certain wide limits, to follow his own wishes in the matter of mating and in the procreation of children. Nor do we believe that the community could or should send to the lethal chamber the defective progeny resulting from irresponsible and unintelligent breeding.
But modern society, which has respected the personal liberty of the individual only in regard to the unrestricted and irresponsible bringing into the world of filth and poverty an overcrowding procession of infants foredoomed to death or hereditable disease, is now confronted with the problem of protecting itself and its future generations against the inevitable consequences of this long-practised policy of LAISSER-FAIRE.
The emergency problem of segregation and sterilization must be faced immediately. Every feeble-minded girl or woman of the hereditary type, especially of the moron class, should be segregated during the reproductive period.
With so many attacks on the individual throughout this,(and reverence for the collective) an attack on free markets isn't surprising.
While she opposed the lethal chamber for children,(it could make sense that she opposed it across the board, but with eugenics nothing truely makes sense) nonetheless she didn't hesitate to talk about the elimination of the unfit.
"Elimination of the unfit was a very common phrase amongst progressives and eugenists, searching the phrase came back with a scary amount of results. A lot of these are medical journals, academic journals, and so forth which go on to ask familiar questions or run along familiar themes. Link 1 Link 2 Link 3 Link 4 (I almost skipped over this one, but note how they talk about tuberculosis. I have no interest in this aspect of eugenic thought, but Black is right when he mentions this footnote) Link 5 (This one is from Britain)
A few stood out:
Progress: a monthly magazine of advanced thought, Volume 7 By progressives, for progressives.
This medical journal states the following:
There are degenerate strains of humanity and degenerate strains of business. Biology insists upon some plan for the elimination of the unfit among humans. So long as these plans are moderate and humane the race will be benefited by their adoption.
So long as you aren't deemed to be "unfit" by the scientists and/or the rulers, then these plans will probably seem even more moderate, eh? All people are equal, but some people are more equal than others? How this is just stated as a matter of fact, I can't put into words how much it bothers me. But it does remind me of what Hayek points out in "Road to Serfdom"(page 202) how scientists are not always comfortable with the notion of freedom.
Now, some may say that this is a bit of a sidetrack from lethal chambers. I'm not sure it is. How many times can you hear people around you, "respectable" people talk about the "elimination of the unfit", before it hits home and you start talking logical extremes such as sterilizations, lethal chambers, segregations, or other forms of eugenic solutions, euthanasia and whatnot?
The sad thing, is that the first time a gas chamber was used was right here in America. Nevada, to be exact, in the case of Gee Jon.
Please add me to your Progressivism ping list.
What strange notions people who understand a smattering of science come up with!