Crime and Its Remedy
September 22, 1893 – World’s First Parliament of Religions, Hall of Columbus, Columbian Exposition, Chicago IL
The causes usually given for crime are many, such as poverty, evil associations, intemperance, etc. But these are rather the occasions than the causes of criminal conduct. The true philosopher looks behind all these and finds, in inherited tendencies, one of the most fruitful causes of crime. It is not the intoxicating cup but the weak will which causes drunkenness; not the gold within easy reach but the avaricious mind winch prompts to robbery; it is not the weakness of the victim but the angry passions of the murderer which makes the blood flow. A careful study of the subject by means of statistics has shown that evil deeds, in a very large proportion of cases, can be traced back to the evil passions cherished by the immediate ancestors of the wrong-doer, and our means of tracing such connections are so limited that we really know but a small part of the whole truth. In the majority of cases the criminal is a man badly born. So true is it that in all the relations of life men are dependent upon other men and each one is interested to have everybody else do right, especially his own ancestors. Dipsomania is now almost universally recognized as an inheritance from the drinking habits of the past, and all the evil passions of men bear fruitage in after generations in various forms of crime.
What can we do to check this great tide of criminality which perpetuates itself thus from generation to generation, gathering ever new strength and force with time? How stop this supply of criminals?
There is but one answer: men must be better born. Our remedial measures are feeble and ineffectual unless we can begin at the fountain head ; for while we are reforming one criminal one hundred more are born. We must have better mothers. We ate learning that not only the sins of the fathers, but the mistakes and unfortunate conditions of the mothers, bear terrible fruitage, even to the third and fourth generation. God has entrusted the mother with the awful responsibility of giving the first direction to human character. Old and New Testament Scriptures alike announce the Divine fiat that man is to leave all things, his father and his mother if need be, and cleave unto his wife. His personal preferences, his ambitions, his business of the world, his earlv affections, all must be subordinate to this one great object of the marriage relation, the formation of noble human characters; and in this creative realm woman is to rule supreme; she must be the arbiter of the home, that in her divine work of moulding character she may surround her self with such conditions and win to herself such heavenly communions that her children shall be indeed heirs of God bearing upon their foreheads the stamp of the divine, Bnt how far have we come short of this grand ideal! The race is stamped by its mothers, the fountain will not rise higher than its source, men will be no better than the mothers that bear them, and as woman is elevated, her mental vision enlarged and her true dignity estab lished, will her sons go forth, armed with a native power to uphold the right, trample out iniquity, and overcome the world.
Source: The World’s Parliament of Religions, An Illustrated and Popular Story of the World’s First Parliament of Religions, Held in Chicago in Connection with the Columbian Exposition of 1893, (Chicago: The Parliamentary Publishing Co.), 1893, pp. 1076-1078.