South America Today - Argentine Education, Hospitals, and Asylums
( Originally Published 1911 )
OF the different foreign elements contributed by the Latin peoples fuse so readily into an Argentine race, it is none the less true that Spanish metal bulks the heaviest in the ore. Language, literature, history, give a bias from which none can escape. The ancient branch transplanted to this youthful soil sends up its shoots towards another heaven, but the original sap circulates unendingly in the living tree. The Argentine is not, and firmly refuses to be, a Spanish colony. It has successfully freed itself from the historic shackles—those of theocracy, first of all—which have so disastrously tied and bound the noble and lofty impulses of a people eminently fitted to perform exalted tasks. And hence, notwithstanding a large alluvion from Italy, symbolised by the monument to Garibaldi, notwithstanding the growing influence of French culture, the atavism of blood preserves an indelible imprint which will characterise the Argentine nation down to its most distant posterity.
The visit of the Infanta Isabella on the occasion of the Centenary Fetes in honour of the independence was a happy thought on the part of the Spanish Government. The Princess, escorted by M. Perez Caballero, the present Spanish Ambassador in Paris, was everywhere received with rapturous enthusiasm. It was easy to see that the struggles of the past, now relegated to the annals of the dead, had left no bitterness in the people's heart. There was universal pleasure at the graceful action of the now reconciled parent in thus stretching a hand to the son who, with impetuous ardour, had thrown off the yoke of dependence, and the public found a subtle pleasure in showing that the chivalrous courtesy which is part of the tradition of the race had lost none of its flower in this American land. After the severe measures taken to re-press anarchical violence, a rumour spread that the life of the President of the Republic was in danger. Perhaps there was nothing in it. Unfortunately, it was one of those things that can only be verified by experience. At all events, the Infanta Isabella chose to ignore the danger. With the utmost simplicity, but also with the utmost courage, she showed herself everywhere by the side of the Chief of the State, and to the lasting credit of the Argentine reputation, everywhere she was greeted with hearty applause.
Here, then, is a base, immutably Spanish through all the changes that one can foresee, together with a fusion and perfect assimilation of the Latin elements in the immense influx of European civilisation : such is the first condition of Argentine evolution to be seen and studied in the city of Buenos Aires. To make the picture complete, we must notice an important contribution of Indian blood that is very marked everywhere. I shall return to this later. As for the national character, since I am only jotting down a traveller's impressions, and not attempting to present to my readers a didactic study, it is, I think, better to allow its features to spring naturally from the subject under consideration as we go along, rather than first to make statements that I must next attempt to prove.
I have already mentioned the extreme kindness of Senor Guiraldes, the City Lieutenant, who is for the Argentine capital what M. de Selves is for Paris. Like our own Prefect, he is appointed by the President of the Republic, and I may say that although there are inevitably from time to time differences with the Municipal Council, the system has given good results as applied to a place in which there are so many conflicting elements. Senor and Senora Guiraldes, like all the upper class of Argentine society, possess the most perfect European culture, and they do the honours of their city with a charming grace that delights the foreign visitor. Now that I am at a distance from them, I consider that I may with propriety pay sincere homage to their courtesy. Whenever I found I had a little time to spare I used to telephone to Senor Guiraldes, who had once for all placed himself at my disposal. He invariably replied by hastening to my door, and together we consulted as to tours of inspection; it was agreed that I should choose the institutions to be visited so that there might be no suspicion of collusion. In this way I was enabled to visit all the State or municipal establishments that interested me. When by chance we found some evidence of official oversight, Senor Guiraldès's satisfaction was boundless.
"At least," he cried, "you will not tell me that your call had been announced beforehand."
Then, to check any inordinate vanity, I told him the tale of an adventure that happened once to a certain Minister of the Interior who visited the prison of Saint Lazare.
A ring at the bell.
" I want to see the Governor."
" He has gone up to town."
" Then I will see the chief clerk."
"He is away on leave."
" The chief warder?"
"He is laid up."
" Can I speak to the Sister Superior?" " She has just gone out."
"Well, are any of the prisoners at home?" The gaoler, smiling amiably : "I believe so." Argentine officials, like their French brethren, are both fallible and zealous, and while it was impossible that in so many visits there should be no ground for criticism, yet I am anxious to declare publicly how admirably kept were the schools, of whatever degree, the hospitals, asylums, refuges, and prisons; they were not only adapted to all the requirements of therapeutics, hygiene, and the canons of modern European science, but they showed a genuine effort to do better than the best. I should have been glad to have there some of those who make a practice of disdaining these countries that started very long after us, but that can already give us some salutary lessons through institutions such as those I have named, which are here brought to a pitch of perfection that is in many cases unknown with us.
My readers will not expect me to take them with me round all the establishments that I visited with Senor Guiraldes. They would fill a book, and I should need to dip into the innumerable volumes of reports and notices which Argentine benevolence added to my personal luggage. This, however, does not come within my subject.
None will be surprised that the schools attracted my attention first. The School Question is too vast to be handled here in detail. But I saw professional schools (Ecoles industrielles de la Nation), and primary schools that would be models in any land. All the arrangements irreproachable, and the children scrupulously clean. Demonstration lessons in abundance. Lessons on the Iand and its mineral, vegetable, and animal productions, specimens of each being passed from hand to hand, accompanied by explanations summarised in synoptic tables. A lesson on the anatomy and physiology of the lungs was illustrated by the breathing organs of an ox and a sheep (higher primary class for young girls), which appeared to awaken great interest among the scholars. Specimens in pasteboard coloured like life, showing the different parts of the organism, allow these rudimentary demonstrations to be carried fairly far.
The primary schools, under the management of the National Educational Council, are free, and include the school material obligatory in theory for children of from six to twelve years of age. But the population of Buenos Aires grows more rapidly than its schools. Hence the inconvenient expedient has been adopted of dividing the pupils into two categories, one attending school of a morning and the other of an afternoon, with the result that one half the children are always wandering about the streets while the others are drinking at the fountain of knowledge. This is a system that has nothing to recommend it. It is difficult to understand why the Argentine capital postpones making a pecuniary sacrifice which is certainly not beyond its means, and which is imperatively necessary. The criticism is the more justifiable in that untold sums have been spent on certain buildings which are veritable palaces, as, for example, the President Roca School. About a hundred private, lay, or denominational schools, kept for the most part by foreigners, take in the children who are crowded out of the public schools. At Buenos Aires, as in other parts of the country, the number of pupils in this category is far too large. There are provinces where the deficit of schools is such as to constitute a real scandal in a civilised nation.
I shall never forget the heart-broken tones of a child of ten whom I met in the Pampas of the Buenos Aires province and whom I questioned as to his occupations.
" I want to go to school. Papa does not want me to."
The father was a Mexican. The eyes of the child thus condemned by paternal stupidity to mental darkness were full of intelligence. How much trouble we take to make the best of our land ! How apathetic we are when it is a question of developing the greatest force in the world, that which sets in motion all the rest—human intelligence ! Is it not inconceivable that in France, after nearly half a century of labour, we still find every year a large number of wholly illiterate men among the conscripts called up to serve with the Flag? This state of affairs, which is sad enough at home, would be reckoned a great success in the Campo, where distances are such that the children have to go to the primary schools on horseback, as I have elsewhere mentioned. But when a school is within reach, the folly of parents must not be permitted to debar their children from its advantages.
The municipal and State schools are entirely undenominational. This rule obtains through-out the Argentine, where it is accepted without a murmur. The numerous religious Orders have their own private schools in virtue of the recognised principle of liberty of teaching. It might surprise a European to see that the Catholic clergy of the Argentine do not attempt to fight the undenominational character of the public schools which elsewhere has aroused such violent hostility. To my mind this cannot be explained by a want of religious fervour amongst priests and monks in the Argentine. But circumstances which it would take too long to explain have taught the Argentine clergy to make an outward practice of toleration. If questioned on the subject, the Argentino will reply: " Our clergy hold themselves aloof from politics."
And this seems to be the case. The religious world appears to be no party to political differences. The social influence of the Roman hierarchy is none the less powerful on what remains of the old colonial aristocracy and (with few exceptions) on the women of the class known as superior. Practically, the official relations of Church and State in the Argentine approach very close to separation.
I shall say nothing of the secondary schools and colleges, of which I saw but little. They are placed under the immediate control of the Minister of Public Instruction. There are no resident students. This, in the opinion of all, is the weakest spot in their educational scheme. Amédée Jacques, one of the exiles of our December coup d'état, introduced our classical curriculum into the Argentine, but it met with no success. Since that time, here, as at home, there has been strife between the partisans of the classic and those of modern, or even technical, education. Great battles have been fought, and the only result is that the cause of education has suffered from both parties. The opening of a French lycée, which I have reason to believe will shortly take place, may help to restore the classics to the position which in my opinion they ought to hold in every civilised country.
In certain branches higher education has made great strides. Law and Medicine in particular have a staff of eminent men in their colleges. Any man who has made his mark in Europe is sure of a choice audience there, drawn from both professors and students. I had the pleasure of being present at the first of Enrico Ferri's lectures at the Law schools. His subject was Social Justice. The powerful and glowing eloquence of the orator was never displayed before a public better prepared to profit by his lofty teaching on humanitarian equity.
It is not in vain that so many young Argentinos have made their way to the universities of France, Italy, and Germany. As soon as I set foot in the hospitals here I had an impression that I was in the full stream of European science, and that the Argentinos were determined to be second to none in the perfection of their organisation.
I noticed an excellent bacteriological institute managed by a compatriot of ours, M. Lignères, and some agricultural schools that are turning out a competent body of men for the development of the Pampas.
The hospitals impressed us very favourably. The New Hospital for Contagious Diseases, situated some kilometres from the centre of the town, comprises a series of model buildings, all strictly isolated, of which each is devoted to a special disease. At the Rivadavia Hospital, for women only, the Cobo wards (for pulmonary tuberculosis and surgical operations) are particularly admirable. Everywhere the latest improvements as regards the appliances for the patients, the sterilising halls, and operating theatres, and also as regards surgical appliances. Nothing has been overlooked that can increase the efficaciousness of the hospital schools : amphitheatres for classes, diagrams, specimens, etc. The laboratories are so luxurious that they would make our own hospital students envious. It was here that Dr. Pozzi, our eminent compatriot, performed in May, 1910, a series of operations, every one of which proved successful; while his German fellow-practitioner, whose scientific acquirements are unquestionable, met with very different results. The same may be said of Dr. Doléris, who held a course of demonstration lessons in Buenos Aires, and whose operations were also crowned with entire success. The Rivadavia Hospital has a fine annexe of supplementary work: consultations for out-patients, electro- and radio-therapy, dispensary, etc. I must also mention the sumptuous recreation-rooms for the use of convalescents, and the gardens, exquisitely kept.
In the maternity wards (at Alvear as at Rivadavia) we find the same care for ultra-modern comfort, combined with the strictest cleanliness. I must not forget a very curious obstetrical museum with diagrams, anatomical specimens, and a series of admirable preparations exemplifying the different stages of gestation. A small cradle should be noticed (a German invention, I believe), ingeniously attached to the mother's bed and taken down with a single movement of the hand. Very happy instance of simplification. Everywhere—in the design of the buildings, in the fittings, laboratories, sterilising- and operating-rooms—the influence and products of Germany were patent. On the other hand, the French culture of doctors and surgeons, masters and pupils, was easily discernible, and all were greatly indebted to the classics of our Paris and Lyons Faculties. I could not see the evidences of this in the hospital libraries without remembering regretfully the churlish reception that is given in some of our hospital schools to modest foreign savants.
At the same time, I will not conceal the fact that Protection of the most extreme sort flourishes among the Argentine physicians, who are very anxious to defend themselves against European competition. I was told that there are no less than thirty-two examinations imposed on a doctor from the Paris Faculty before he is permitted to write out the simplest prescription for a gaucho of the Pampas. We may be allowed to find these measures highly exaggerated.
There is a splendid Asylum for Aged Men kept by French Sisters of Charity in a condition of the daintiest cleanliness, and managed by ladies of the city. The Argentinos claim that their women are very zealous in all charitable works. Doubt was thrown recently in the Chamber on this statement. I am not competent to judge.
One original institution—the Widows' Asylum —is a sort of settlement composed of small apartments of one or two rooms, on a single floor. In the courtyard opposite the gate is a small shed, in which is placed a stove for open-air cooking, possible in this fortunate climate all the year round. The rents are very low for widows having more than four children.
The lunatic colony of Lujan, to which its founder and manager, Dr. Cabred, has given the significant name of The Open Door, deserves a more detailed description. It consists of an estate of six hundred hectares on the Pacific Line seventy kilometres from Buenos Aires, and here twelve hundred patients are accommodated in twenty villas—graceful chalets, surrounded by gardens and containing each sixty patients. These villas are fitted up with everything necessary for clinotherapy and balneotherapy, with fine recreation-rooms. The colony is enclosed by a-line of wire; not a wall, not a wooden fence —everywhere unrestricted freedom and a wide, open horizon.
We have erected a monument in Paris to the memory of Pine], in which he is represented as breaking the chains which medieval ignorance heaped on the mad inmates of Bicêtre as late as 1793. But if you visit our asylum of Sainte-Anne, you are tempted to ask in what this " modern " establishment differs from an ordinary prison. I hasten to add that in the other asylums of the Department of the Seine we are beginning to develop the open-air treatment. Long ago the system of placing certain patients out in the country amongst peasant families was planned and adopted. The Open Door treats all mental patients, of whatever degree of madness, on the plan known out here as " work per-formed in liberty." In the confusion of cerebral phenomena the widest freedom is given to the reflex action of unconscious or quasi-unconscious life. If a patient has learnt a trade, he finds at once in The Open Door an outlet for his energies, for it is with the labour of the lunatics that the carpentering, masonry, scaffolding, etc., of these villas was executed. Those who have no trade are given a technical education, and often acquire great skill. The difficulty is to persuade the newcomer to begin to work. If he refuses, he is left alone. " He is left to feel dull." Then he is invited to take a walk, and once on the spot where work is proceeding, he is offered a tool that he may do as the others are doing.
" I have met with only one refusal," said Dr. Cabred. " One patient tried calmly to prove to me that life was not worth the labour necessary to preserve it. I must confess that he nearly convinced me, and I often try to find the flaw in his reasoning, though never, as yet, with success. It is a little hard when the apostle of lunatic labour is brought to ask himself if the lunatic who refuses to work is not acting on a better reasoned conviction than his more submissive companions. At any rate, he is the only man in the colony who does nothing. He spends his time reading the paper or dreaming, without saying a word. When I go to see him he mocks at me, declaring that it is I who am the fool, and, indeed, to support his laziness is not, perhaps, the action of a sane man."
There is not a strait-waistcoat or a single appliance for restraint in the whole colony. Excitement or attacks of violence all yield to the bath, which is sometimes prolonged to twenty-four or thirty hours if necessary.
Separate chalets for the manager and his staff, for the water reservoir, the machinery, laundry, dairy, kitchens, workshops, theatre, chapel. Out-side, agricultural labour in every form, from ploughing to cattle rearing. Only the superintendents who direct the work are sane, or sup-posed to be. In spite of this assurance it is not without alarm that one watches madmen hand-ling red-hot irons or tools as dangerous for others as themselves. As may be supposed, they are not put to this kind of work until they have been subjected to long trials.,
Our visit to The Open Door lasted a whole day, and still we had not seen everything. From first to last we were followed by a mad photographer, who took his pictures at his own convenience and reprimanded us severely for rising from lunch without first posing for him. Four days later a series of photographs, representing the various incidents of our day at The Open Door, was sent to me, bound in an album—by a madman, of course, and sent by another mad-man to a person mad enough to believe himself endowed with reason.
Need I add that we had been received to the strains of the Marseillaise and the National Argentine Hymn, performed by a mad band, which, all through lunch, played the music of its repertoire ! Ever since, I have wondered why a certificate of madness is not demanded from every candidate for admission to the Opera orchestra.
As for journalism, do you suppose that no room was found for it in The Open Door? The excellent Dr. Cabred is not a man to make such omissions. We were duly presented with a copy of the Ecos de las Mercedes, a monthly paper, written and published by the madmen of The Open Door, with the intention, perhaps, of making us believe that other journals are the work of individuals in full possession of their commonsense—prose and poetry; articles in Spanish, Italian, and French; occasionally a slight carelessness in grammar and in sequence of thought, but, on the whole, not wandering farther from their subject than others.
Finally, to wind up the day's proceedings, we were treated to a horserace ridden by lunatics. Sane beasts mounted by mad horsemen, galloping wildly, by mutual consent, in a useless effort to reach a perfectly vain end. Is not this the common spectacle offered by humanity?
Meantime, one honest madman of mystic tendencies, decorated with about a hundred medals, pursued us with religious works, from which he read us extracts, accompanied by his blessing. I wondered whether this form of exercise was included in Dr. Cabred's programme, since he claims to make his lunatics perform all the acts of a sane community. A similar scruple occurred to me at noon, when I was invited to take a seat at a well-spread table.
" Is your cooking done by madmen?" I inquired, not without anxiety.
" We have made an exception in your favour," was the contrite reply.
And now another question arose to my lips.
" Since you have clearly proved that the mad are capable of performing any kind of task, will you tell me why you give yourself the lie by placing at the head of The Open Door a man who appears to me in possession of all his faculties?"
"Yes; that is a weakness," replied the Doctor, laughing. " But, after all, what proof have you that I am not literally fulfilling all my own conditions? Did I not tell you that one of my patients, who may quite possibly be the most enlightened of us all, pronounced me a raving lunatic when I invited him to work? If he is right, then all is as it should be at The Open Door."
I did not wish to vex the kindly doctor, who is the architect of so admirable a monument, but there was still a doubt in my mind : Was it possible to give the illusion of freedom to these madmen by merely suppressing the walls? They offer no resistance when called to co-operate in all kinds of open-air labour, and find, if not a cure, at least relief from their malady in this simple treatment; but did they really believe themselves free? I did not ask the question, for the answer was given by an old French gardener, one of the inmates of The Open Door, who, over-excited by our presence there, suddenly began to rave.
"For twenty-five years," he shrieked, "you have kept me prisoner here!"
Here, then, was a man whose life was spent out of doors at the work with which he had been familiar all his life, and, although no sign of restraint was visible, he was conscious of imprisonment. It is true that modern determinism has reduced what we call our " liberty " to the rigorous fatality of an organism which leaves to us merely the illusion of free will, while imposing on us the impulse of some superior energy that we are forced to obey. Oh, Madness ! Oh, Wisdom! Oh, vacillating sisters! is it indeed true that you wander hand in hand through the world?
To whatever philosophic solution our own madness or reason may lead us, let us hasten to conclude the subject by stating that The Open Door is a model establishment, which, thanks to Dr. Cabred, enables the Argentine to give the lead to older peoples. I will only add that it is the rarest thing for a patient to escape (if I may use so unsuitable a word), since the natural conditions of the surrounding Pampas would render life therein impossible; and the lunatics on the way to recovery who are given leave of absence to stay a few days with their friends before being finally set at liberty in-variably return punctually to the colony. Who can tell if some lunatic, restored to reason, might not secretly refuse to believe himself cured, and elect to pass the rest of his days happily at work under the glorious sky amongst these peaceful creatures, where the troubles and worries of the world, with the eternal competition and conflict which are the scourge of our " sane" existence, are unfelt and unknown?
Such a case might lead Dr. Cabred to put up a similar establishment for the wise.
From the lunatic asylum to the prison is not such a leap as some of us may think. The asylum lifts out of the relative orderliness that we have managed to establish in the conditions of civilised life all those who, by lack of mental balance, might introduce unbearable disorder. And might not this elemental definition be equally applied to the one or the other class of unfortunates? I beg my reader not to be alarmed at the fearful gravity of the problem. If it be true that no philosopher has ever been able to find a solid foundation for the right that man has assumed to " punish " his fellows for transgressing his laws, at least all will readily admit that, notwithstanding some obvious imperfections, society has attained to manifest superiority over the state of barbarism in which brute force alone rules, and that it is therefore inadmissible that those who would transgress the general laws on which society has been based should be allowed to destroy the fabric so laboriously built up.
In moving out of its path those who would live within its pale in defiance of its laws, society but exercises its natural right. The real question open to dispute is rather the treatment to be meted out to these rebels. In the primitive code of the talion nothing was more simple—an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth—thou hast killed; I kill thee. Thou hast inflicted injuries; I in my turn shall injure thee, and I expect to deter thee from future crimes by fear of the pain in store for thee. Such " justice " has the double advantage of being speedy and readily comprehended of a rudimentary intelligence as long as the temptation has been resisted. But when evil instincts, that none asks of Nature, have caused the fall of delinquents, the morbid moral sense, more or less distorted, which urged them on to violent deeds, makes them conscious solely of the violence of which they are now the object, and drives them to take sinister revenge. Thus they are prevented from exercising their calmer judgment, from which, by the mere force of reaction, there might spring a desire and hope for a new life within the pale of the established order of things.
And seeing it had been left for 1793—the epoch of a universal outburst of fraternity, manifested first by the permanent institution of the guillotine—to give us in Pinel a man of enough simple common-sense to break the chains that bound the mad, is it unreasonable to think that without freeing criminals (since not even at The Open Door are the lunatics let loose upon the public) one might yet seek some system of improvement and reformation to be applied in the establishments in which we keep our prisoners? There will always be some incurables—that is certain; but because incurables exist in every hospital and asylum, ought we to argue therefrom that it is useless to fight against an evil that is beyond human powers?
The reader may suppose that I should not have ventured to set down these considerations of social philosophy without a good reason. The principles I have thus summarised, at the risk of wearying those who look only for amusement, are now held by every criminalist worthy the name. But since this new conception makes its way very slowly with even the best-intentioned of Governments, which are the more strongly imbued with the prejudices of the masses in proportion as they are the more impregnated with the democracy, and since the transformation of our existing prisons would be very costly, we have as yet not got farther than the inclusion of the words " reform" and " amendment " on programmes that are very far from being put in execution.
Shall I give an example? It is evident that the time-sentence must inevitably restore a prisoner sooner or later to society. Is not, therefore, the public interest bound up in his returning with a good chance of leading a regular life, and not falling back into the disorder that was the cause of his temporary removal? And is not the very first condition of this fresh start the possession of a trade with sufficient skill therein to ensure some chance of success? If, then, we can give technical instruction in our prisons, and at the same time improve the intellectual and moral standard of the prisoner; and if, on his discharge, we can place the man whom society has thus—temporarily only—removed from its midst, in a position immediately to earn an honest living, instead of throwing him on his own resources, to be again confronted with the same temptations—would not society in this way infinitely multiply the sum total of the probabilities that its money and trouble would have the desired effect? I think, in theory, this argument will be readily admitted. Unfortunately, the difficulty is that it is much more economical to draw an immediate profit from prison labour than to re-verse the problem and spend more in order to place an instrument of reform in the hands of the delinquent, with always, of course, a risk of failure.
In the United States great progress has been made in this direction, and if I appear to have gone a long way round to introduce my readers to the Central (men's) Prison of Buenos Aires, my excuse is that to my mind the Argentine Republic has far surpassed all that has been attempted hitherto in this department of work. And to say truth, I feared that in bluntly and without comment giving a description of what I have been permitted to see, I might jar the spirit of routine that has taken hold of certain communities, notwithstanding their revolutionary changes of appellation.
I shall say nothing of the material side of the place, which very much resembles our own prisons. The prisoners are locked into their cells at night, but by day they are told off into the different workshops which are intended to perfect them in their own trades or give them a new one. The wages question is placed on much the same basis as with us, except that, the food being more abundant, the men are able to put aside the greater part of what they earn. (The diet consists principally of percheroboiled beef-the staple article of food amongst the masses.) Conversation is allowed, but only in a low voice, and as long as work is not hindered thereby. Rations are distributed in the cells by the prisoners themselves, who take their meals with the door open, and frequently add a cigarette to the menu. There are books in every cell, with the essentials of school stationery. There are fourteen classes and fourteen masters. All the inmates attend the adult classes, which include such subjects—in addition to the theory of their own special technical work—as history, hygiene, morality, and in each an examination is held at the end of the year.
Both Governor and masters testify to the general application of the pupils. The land surveying class grows with special rapidity, in view of the constant demand for surveyors in the Pampas. A vast lecture-hall, which makes a theatre when required, is decorated with drawings, casts, and charts by the hand of the pupils. Lectures are given both by masters and prisoners when the latter are sufficiently advanced, or when their former studies have qualified them for the task. On one occasion M. Ferrero, who has, I believe, published an account of his visit to the Central Prison of Buenos Aires, was present when a prisoner gave a lecture on prehistoric America.
" And the old offenders? " I asked as I went out.
" There are some," replied the Governor," but not many. Our system of-re-education is powerfully backed up by the permanent offer of work from all parts of the Pampas. Moreover, the greater number of our crimes are what are called crimes of passion.' The Italian and Spaniard are equally prompt with the knife. A large number of these men have killed their man in a fit of furious excitement, but they will be thought none the less of for their 'irritability' when they return home. Our point of view is this : Every time a man commits an offence or a crime, it becomes the duty of the community to begin, immediately, the work of re-education. Probably in no country shall we ever do all we might for the individual offender. But when one member of the social corporation falls he must be made over again. This is what we are trying to do, and I admit it is the greatest joy to us to see the success of our efforts. I have seen most of the prisons of Europe. Did you notice amongst our inmates that expression of the tracked beast which you find on all your prisoners? No. Our inmates have one idea only--to begin life again and to prepare, this time, for success. This is the secret of that tranquil, confiding air of good children at their task which you must have observed on so many faces; and this, perhaps, takes the place of repentance, which is not given to all."
" And you are not afraid your comfortable building will prove an attraction to people who are at a loss to know what to do with themselves? "
" That has not happened so far. Such a fear —though I cannot believe you are speaking seriously—shows you do not take into account the superior attraction for every human creature of liberty."
With that I left, having learnt a very interesting lesson from the Argentinos, whom so many Europeans are generously ready to teach.