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of insanity :" 43 Lond. Quart. Rev. 355. See Comb on Ment. Derang. 196 ; Medway v. Croft, 3 Curt. Eccl. R. (Eng.) 671.
§ 12. Amentia; what it embraces.
Amentia embraces the forms of unsoundness of mind known as idiocy, imbecility and cretinism. . Idiocy is a form of unsoundness of mind, resulting either from congenital defect, or some obstacle to the development of the faculties of mind in infancy. But idiocy has its degrees, like other forms of umsoundness of mind. Usually a total idiot is a person who has been without understanding from his nativity, and whom the law, therefore, presumes never likely to attain any : 6 Field's Lawyers' Briefs, § 410; Shelf. on Lunacy, 2.
§ 13. Imbecility defined ; a mental deficiency.
Imbecility, in medical jurisprudence, has been defined as a form of mental deficiency, either congenital or resulting from an obstacle to the development of the faculties s!!pervening infancy ; and it is substantially the same idiocy : Id.
§ 14. Cretinism.
Cretinism is a form of idiocy which exists in some parts of Europe, and which prevails endemically, and is associated with disease or defective development of other organs besides the head. Of this it has been observed : “ The stat. ure is dwarfed, the belly large, the legs small, the head conical, the arch of the palate high and narrow, the teeth irregular, the mouth large, the lips thick, the complexion sallow, the voice harsh and shrill, the speech thick and indistinct, the eyes squinting, the gait feeble and unsteady, the sexual powers weak or wanting. The best authorities represent this physical degeneracy, with co-existing mental deficiency, as dating, with rare exceptions, from a period subsequent to birth. About the fifth or sixth month, the bodily development seems checked. The child is weak, and looks unhealthy, the head is large, and its bones widely separated, the belly swells and the limbs shrink, teething goes on very slowly, and the child cannot stand or speak till its fifth or sixth
: In its worst phases the subject has no intelligence; the senses are wholly wanting.
year : " Id.
§ 15. Idiocy.
Idiocy is a congenital or serious defect of all the mental faculties, although admitting of degrees : Guy & Fer. on Forensic Med. (5th ed.) 183. And idiots are incapable of committing crimes or of making contracts or wills : Bacon's Alb. Idiot, A ; 4 Bl. Com. 24, 304; Arch. Cr. L. 4; Shelf. on Lunacy, 458; Criminal Law, vol. 2, Field's Lawyers' Briefs, § 270 et seq. ; Contracts, vol. 2, Field's Lawyers' Briefs, § 80; Coll. on Lunacy, 573; Rex v. Oxford, 9 C. & P. (Eng.) 525 ; Rex 2. Goode, 7 Ad. & El. (Eng.) 836 ; Com. v. Rogers, 7 Met. (Mass.) 500 ; State v. Spencer, 21 N. J. L. 196; McAlister v. State, 17 Ala. 434; Guy & Fer. on Forensic Med. (5th
$ 16. Imbecility.
The term imbecility is sometimes used to designate a mental defect manifesting itself in infancy, as distinguished from that which is congenital. Of this unsoundness of mind it has been said: “Idiocy and imbecility ought perhaps to
6 be equally characterized as congenital defects, of which the more marked (idiocy) reveals itself soonest, while imbecility is not recognized till the faculties have been tested by education and found wanting. It is obvious, too, that no sharp lines of distinction can be drawn between the idiot and the imbecile, for the fainter shades of imbecility pass into the lighter tints of idiocy. But the possession by the imbecile of the faculty of speech, as distinguished from the parrot-like utterances of a few words which the idiot can learn, is the best line of demarkation which the case allows of. Most imbeciles are intellectually as well as morally deficient. They have a limited power of acquiring or retaining knowledge, cannot understand or appreciate the customs of society or laws, human or divine; cannot control their emotions and passions. But there is a small exceptional class which exhibits intellectual deficiency without seriously offending against morality, and a larger one combines the highest intellectual endowments with utter incapacity in the conduct of life. There is, therefore, an intellectual, a moral and a general mania. The form of imbecility most common, and most important in a medico-legal point of view, is that which affects the intellect, the morals, and the prudential conduct of life. Persons who ex
hibit this threefold deficiency profit by education, so as to form and express simple ideas, to read, write, count, and to become musicians, draughtsmen or mechanics. They may even attain some proficiency in some one branch of knowledge, or some one accomplishment; but they do not profit by the opportunities afforded them in the same degree as their neighbors. They also present great varieties of character. Some are fickle and changeable and incapable of fixing their attention, and others methodical and persevering. They have no idea, or a very imperfect one, of society, laws, morality, courts and trials; and though they may have the idea of property, they have no conception of the consequences of theft. They may have been taught to refrain from injuring others, but they are ignorant of what would be done to them if guilty of incendiarism or murder :" Georget's Sur la Folie; Guy & Fer. on Forensic Med. 188.
§ 17. Question of civil and criminal liability of imbe
ciles considered. Questions as to the competency of imbeciles to contract, of ability to manage their own affairs, and to make wills, and as to their criminal