Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Shepherd Dugger Suggests Legislature Forbid Marriage of Cripples, People With Poor Vision, People Who Have Insanity in Family, 1914

From the Wagauga Democrat, Boone, N.C., October 22, 1914. “Cousin German” is an old-fashioned term for one’s first cousin.

From an economic view-point alone, the legislature of North Carolina should enact a stringent law against degenerating marriage. A large percentage of those under treatment in the State Hospital are the result of marriages that ought to have been prohibited by statues. Trace back the streaks of insanity in families; trace back the weak-eyed and cripples, and the one who has been so nervous from birth that it has taken the constant watchfulness of a faithful attendant to keep him from going to pieces—I say trace them back and see if they are not the offspring of parents who were closely related by blood.

Our State Legislators, when in session, are often spoken as “our Solons.” Have they merited the name? Who was Solon? He was the chiefest of the wise men of Greece. It was he who told Croesus, King of Lydia, that Tellus, a poor man who died leaving valuable children to his country was a happier man that he (Croesus) with all his gold and sumptuous furniture.

Have “our Solons” ever displayed such grit as that? No—they have created a statute forbidding a man to marry his niece, but permitting him to marry his first cousin, or cousin German. I repeat that a man’s niece is the same blood kin to him as his first cousin, but only half as much as his cousin German, and that the cousin German is the same kin as his sister, or the two parental brothers, may take back after different branches of the family.

But that does not better it, because in the second generation, the red-haired sister’s children will take after the dark-haired sister, and vice versa, showing that notwithstanding the difference in complexion, the blood is the same. But “our Solons” have never yet found it wise to stop men from marrying women who are the equivalent of their sisters.

Four years ago a high class member of the General Assembly introduced a bill to stop cousins from marrying, but other members—gentlemen, of course, by their positions—ridiculed the bill until it died in its infancy.

One of these members must have been a bachelor who had a rich cousin sweetheart; and another was unquestionably a father whose son was courting a wealthy cousin, or his daughter was being wooed by one, and of course a few web-footed and crazy children was nothing in the eyes of two modern Solons when compared with thousands of dollars to come in from the other sides of the two families.

The next time such a bill is opposed in the Legislature, just take it for granted that each member opposing it is either from a “cousin town,” or he is preparing to start a new one of his own.

Gov. Craig has put up a fight for better freight rates, better roads, and better prices for cotton—will he not espouse the cause of better children? Will he champion the passage of a law to stop degeneracy among his people and help them to tend towards the perfect man? Or will he and his successors continue to strain the resources of the State for tax money to support hospitals for that unfortunate class, that which results from imprudent marriages.

Plutarch, that most beautiful of ancient writers, tells us that one of the characteristic things that made Alexander great was his attention to little things.

Take care of the dimes and the dollars will take care of themselves. Take care of the blood of the State and the people will take care of themselves. But with continued neglect in North Carolina, finally one half of the people will have to take care of the other.

I have written these articles to benefit the people who have no more weaknesses than I, but who have at least one that I do not possess. Thanking the editor for publishing the same, and hoping there will be seed sown in good ground, I am
                Very sincerely yours, Shepherd M. Dugger

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