The writer was asked only recently by a lawyer: "Are the cases of this character sufficiently numerous to justify any careful, discriminative, legal study of them?"
Beyond the unquestionable fact that, if there were only one case, no judge would be justified in disposing of it without adequate knowledge of its nature, and the degree of crime involved, the prevalence of this particular sexual anomaly in modern society is such as to warrant its close study, not only by the jurist but by the sociologist.
Making no distinction between the acquired and congenital types, Karl H. Ulrichs states that, in the urban population of Germany, there is one person of contrary sexual instinct in every two hundred mature men; making one to about every eight hundred of the general population; the percentage among the Magyars and South Slavs being even greater. (" Kritische Pfeile," p. 2.) I am aware that some writers regard these statistics as untrustworthy (Vid. Krafft-Ebing, loc. cit., p. 230); but, from the statement of one of the latter writer's own correspondents, that in his native town (13,000 inhabitants) he personally knew fourteen cases, together with the declaration of Moll that, in Berlin, he had himself "known 700 homosexual persons, and heard of 350 others" (H. Ellis, loc. cit., n, 29.), there seems little ground to question the first author's accuracy; at least as to Germany.
As to this country, I have found the estimation of the percentage of homosexual persons an exceedingly involved and difficult proceeding; partly from the element of secrecy already noted, and partly from the fact that the invert himself, from his habit of accepting casual indications as conclusive of the abnormality, is not always a reliable guide. Kiernan, Lydston, Hammond and others, while tabulating a great number of such cases, do not, as far as I am aware, attempt to establish a percentage; but, from my own research, I am inclined to think that in England and the United States, half of one per cent, would not be an unfair estimation; while in France, strangely enough, the number is probably considerably less.
The reports of cases in the English and American Encyclopaedia of Law, based on presumable homosexual instinct, are sufficiently numerous to, at least, indicate a very widespread prevalence of the abnormality in both countries named; and there are few sessions of our criminal courts, in large cities especially, which do not furnish one or more cases of inversion. Along with these, there are undoubtedly numerous instances of delayed, or partial, development, in which the perverse impulse remains in abeyance for years, possibly a lifetime; and is stirred into activity—if at all—only by some accidental cause, traumatic, neurotic or circumstantial; the social reprobation attending its manifestation being always a strong factor in promoting its suppression, as the free-masonry of the clique is in insuring its ser.recv.
In primitive times the punishment inflicted upon this unfortunate class of felons was burning, or burying, alive; showing the degree of horror in which such acta were held; but later, when the statutory punishment for all felonies became death by hanging, pederasty, the so-called sodomy, or, as common-law writers still more vaguely termed it," the infamous crime against nature," 1 was visited with the same punishment, "without benefit of clergy."1 In this country the penalty is now statutory; the offence being regarded, not as a capital crime, but, as a misdemeanor, and the punishment fixed at given terms of imprisonment, ranging from one year to a lifetime. In the criminal statutes of both England and the United States, pederasty and bestiality are indiscriminately treated under the head ofsodomy;" the law, usually so clear and explicit,8 being curiously vague in this respect, and suggesting what I have more than once intimated in these pages, the necessity of some more orderly and systematic classification of such offences, for the use of both physician and jurist.
* Bacon's definition of this great social rule of conduct, however, as "the perfection of human reason," differs somewhat from that of an Irish friend of the writer, who remarked that law was Like ground glass, "it lets in a little light, but the divil himself couldn't see through it." For its status in Roman, French, Austrian, Russian, German, Spanish, and Portuguese laws, see ante pp. 302, 303.