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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Evil Side of 1908

       "A committee of the Illinois legislature is investigating it and the public is taking some interest, but how many people in this state know what horrors the charitable term "Feeble Minded" covers?
       Only those in whose family has come the most terrible affliction that can descend upon it, the birth of a 'feeble-minded' child, know what the term hides under its generous folds.
       'Feeble-minded?'  Yes!  Does it mean weak minded;  does it mean a mind not as strong as the normal, mind afflicted most likely by sickness or fright or some such causes as bring about insanity in the adult? 
       Feeble minded is a curtain that hangs suspended between the public and the truth.
       But behind it there is a chamber of horrors more terrifying than any language or art can portray.
       Yes!  'Feeble-minded is a misnomer, a deception and make believe.
       The word 'children' was attached to the name of this institution when it was created, but like its adjacent term 'feeble minded' it conveys a wrong impression, yet it tells the absolute truth;  for the 'feeble minded' is such at birth and remains such to death;  at any and at all ages, a child, if the word can be applied to a shapeless being that is human only because it has been born of human beings.
       The 'feeble-minded' in this institution are the idiotic, imbecilic, epilectic, brainless, deformed, debauched, degraded offsprings of tainted and diseased ancestry.
       They are the living third and fourth generations upon whom an almighty God declared the sins of their fathers should be visited.
       There are 1,200 of them behind those frowning walls of this institution.
      There are 2,000 more who would be committed to its care if there were accomodations.  How many more of these there are in the state only the omnipotent knows.  In back rooms, on buildings, in garrets, families bearing their disgrace in silence, have hidden away scores of creatures like those forms one sees behind the barred windows at Lincoln.
       Of those who are in the institution at Lincoln nearly all have been sent up by the state.  There are inmates whose parents are well to do and have committed their feeble-minded children to this institution for the benefit of its superior treatment.  This class is made up as a rule of children whose condition is due to after birth causes but they are comparatively few.
       The rest have been charges upon the public and have been consigned to the 'Feeble-Minded' asylum until discharged.  Yes!  until discharged.  That day never comes.  The day of cure never arrives.  Patients are not sent home from Lincoln cured or better as they are from Kankakee or Jacksonville or Elgin.
      Suppose you are a stranger in Lincoln.  The time hangs heavy upon you and you seek something to interest or amuse you.
       You hear the people talk about the 'institution.'  You wander that way.  The first impressions are foreboding.  There is a high iron fence about the. . . Their feet are misshapen;  their heads are abnormally large or small, but always abnormally formed, often times terrifying to look upon.
       What they do they do mechanically.  Their work is not guided by a mind.  They work because they have been taught in a mechanical way to work.  They learn it by rote and do according to a rule of muscular development and operation just one simple thing.
       It is impossible to teach them what books contain.  This has been abandoned.  To teach them to do something that will keep their bodies and hands active is now the purpose of the school and teachers.
       Few become productive but the effort against the irresistable products of sinful flesh and blood continues just the same, because it appears to be humane and just.
       Of the 1,200 only a small per cent goes to school.  Only a few are capable of receiving instruction.
       From the small class known as the 'brighter children' the descent into regions, where live the savage child in a condition of bestiality that shames even the filthiest animal is rapid.
       You pass the epileptic, the marks of the disease plainly written in his lineaments and actions.  You see him in seizure;  a more terrifying spectacle man is not called upon to witness.  You watch the insane child, the mad child, and the violent child, who rages and tears from his body all vestige of clothing, whose control over his physical functions and debasing passions was long ago severed.  Here is a state lower than the lowest, he raves and screams day after day.  Revolting the sight must be to you and the horrifying pictures of these wards will linger with the most hardened and disturb his rest for weeks and months.
       There are spectacles in the back wards of this institution for 'feeble-minded children' that are never opened to the public gaze.  The man who enters the lion cage and fights the big denizens of the Nubian forest displays no more heroism than the attendant who daily waits upon these foul creatures.  These feeble-minded, deformed children are anaemics.  They fight because they are near animal.  They fall because there is slow nerve communication between the eye, the brain, and the muscles.  They are vicious becaus viciousness was bred into them by drunken parents.  They are lustful because they are children of uncontrolled passion.
       Words convey no idea of the scenes witnessed in an hour's journey through this institution.  No description can impart the horrors that the faces of 1,200 idiotic and imbecilic children in all stages of idiocy, imbecility, and insanity can fix upon the plates of memory.  They are pictures that can never be effaced.  These are children.  They are what they are through no fault of their own.  Disease of their own bodies has not caused their condition.  They are helpless, hapless, life-long inmates of an asylum where their physical comfort may be looked after, where their hands and feet may be guided by a sort of automatic process to do certain things;  they are the retribution and the hell that visit themselves upon the living."  Macomb (IL) Daily Journal 1908 {possibly written by W.H. Hainline}

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