Diagnosing Madness
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Diagnosing Madness


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117 pages

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Diagnosing Madness is a study of the linguistic negotiations at the heart of mental illness identification and patient diagnosis. Through an examination of individual psychiatric case records from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Cristina Hanganu-Bresch and Carol Berkenkotter show how the work of psychiatry was navigated by patients, families, doctors, the general public, and the legal system. The results of examining those involved and their interactions show that the psychiatrist's task became one of constant persuasion, producing arguments surrounding diagnosis and asylum confinement that attempted to reconcile shifting definitions of disease and to respond to sociocultural pressures.

By studying patient cases, the emerging literature of confinement, and patient accounts viewed alongside institutional records, the authors trace the evolving rhetoric of psychiatric disease, its impact on the treatment of patients, its implications for our contemporary understanding of mental illness, and the identity of the psychiatric patient. Diagnosing Madness helps elucidate the larger rhetorical forces that contributed to the eventual decline of the asylum and highlights the struggle for the professionalization of psychiatry.



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Date de parution 01 août 2019
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9781643360263
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 2 Mo

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Thomas W. Benson, Series Editor
Diagnosing Madness

Cristina Hanganu-Bresch Carol Berkenkotter
2019 University of South Carolina
Published by the University of South Carolina Press
Columbia, South Carolina 29208
28 27 26 25 24 23 22 21 20 19
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data can be found at http://catalog.loc.gov/ .
ISBN 978-1-64336-025-6 (hardback)
ISBN 978-1-64336-026-3 (ebook)
Front cover design by Brock Henderson
To my parents, Marius and Doina, to whom I owe everything, and Art, who believed in me when it mattered ,
Cristina Hanganu-Bresch
Madness is a foreign country.
Roy Porter, A Social History of Madness , 1987
The right to restrain an insane person of his liberty is found in that great law of humanity which makes it necessary to confine those whose going at large would be dangerous to himself or others.
Chief Justice Lemuel Shaw, Matter of Oakes , 1845
Introduction: Diagnosing Madness-Imagining the Psychiatric Patient, 1850-1920
The Patient as a Psychiatric and Legal Subject in Nineteenth-Century America: Between Norm and Normal
Wrongful Confinement in Late Nineteenth-Century Fiction: Sensation, Fact, Public Fear, and Compound Rhetorical Situations
From Admissions Records to Case Notes: The Illocutionary Power of Occult Genres
Narrative Survival: Personal and Institutional Accounts of Asylum Confinement
Symptoms in Search of a Concept: A Case Study in Psychiatric Enregisterment
Henrietta Unwin s Medical Certificates and Case Note Excerpts from Her 1866 and 1867 Ticehurst Hospitalizations
List of Baldwin s Hospitalizations at Ticehurst
The Friends Asylum for the Insane, ca. 1840
The chain of uptakes following the request ( Order ) to confine a patient in the asylum
Order for the Reception of a Private Patient; Medical Certificates
Samuel Newington, letter to the Commissioners in Lunacy re: Henrietta Unwin, May 3, 1861
The two Medical Certificates signed by Dr. Thomas Allen for Henrietta Unwin on different dates in April 1861
The bidirectionality of uptake
Ticehurst Asylum, Sussex, England
Speech chain
Visual excerpted from Paton showing periodic forms of manic-depressive insanity from an observed case
Visual showing course of disease in cases of manic-depressive insanity
Coded symptom frequency (one-year increments) in John Horatio Baldwin s case notes
Coded symptom frequency (two-year increments) in John Horatio Baldwin s case notes
In the nineteenth century, psychiatric practitioners turned to confinement in what were called insane asylums as the remedy for severe cases of mental illness. The practice generated a large body of textual documentation, especially as it was contested, defended, and administered both in the medical community and in society at large. Cristina Hanganu-Bresch and Carol Berkenkotter examine some of resulting texts from a rhetorical perspective, attending to the ways they exercise a rhetoric of medicine, institutional justifications of the administrative, legal, and institutional practices, as well as various forms of resistance to the regime of confinement, including popular fictions of the horrors of wrongful confinement. This is a deeply humane and reflective book, astute in its critical readings and challenging in its affirmation of the humanity of the psychiatric subject.
This book is the result of years of research spent in archives and libraries on two continents in an attempt to decipher the textual footprints of asylum patients. Some of the results of this research have already been published in Carol Berkenkotter s book Patient Tales: Case Histories and the Uses of Narrative in Psychiatry , as well as in various journals. Here, we focus on tracing not just the patients medical histories but also their life stories before they became patients and after they were discharged. We find that the diagnosis event is the watershed moment in their lives, and so we are looking for the textual-and textural-makeup of this decision. This was our own version of starring the text, in the words of Alan Gross, of placing rhetorical analysis of the written word at the center of the web of cultural practices that made asylums possible in the nineteenth century; thus, we observe firsthand the psychiatric argumentation practices that led to diagnosis and the patients efforts to counter those arguments. For a while we inhabited a world of fading calligraphy inscribed in esoterically paginated dusty tomes, amalgamated genres that also hosted occasional patient letters and artifacts (drawings, paintings, diagrams, objets d art sometimes engraved in what appeared to be the patient s own blood). Whenever possible, case notes, certificates, and private correspondence were copied, transcribed, and analyzed (in some instance coded); and while we used various analytical frameworks, for the most part we let the texts guide us to what we hoped to be intelligible, plausible approximations of the embodied experience of mental illness for those who found themselves in an asylum. We cover both wrongful and rightful confinement here, although as we shall see, both wrongful and rightful are terms laden with judgments and assumptions we may find hard to adhere to today. We look at the English-speaking world (specifically, the United States and Britain) because of their shared philosophy of psychiatric confinement and the commonality of language, and to a period covering roughly the middle of the nineteenth to the beginning of the twentieth century, which is also when asylums came under attack from various sectors of the general public. Regrettably, our access to American medical archives has been severely limited because of a restrictive interpretation of laws protecting patient confidentiality; centuries-old asylum archives, containing case notes and worlds that have been only tentatively explored so far, lie beyond our reach. Thus, instead of asylum records, we turned to two other sources: serialized novels and court proceedings, both of which described (and pronounced judgments on) cases of wrongful confinement. The texts we have analyzed here via a variety of heterogeneous methods under the umbrella of rhetoric capture both the larger nuances of historical phenomena and the life details of private citizens caught in the psychiatric system.
We wish to thank the extraordinary librarians at the Wellcome Library for the History of Medicine in London, and in particular to Richard Aspin, the director of Rare Collections, who helped us wade through many square meters of handwritten text. We are also grateful to the Haverford College Quaker and Special Collections staff, in particular Anne Upton, who directed us to the Hinchman archive, which included press clippings and family letters. We would also like to acknowledge the reviewers who helped make parts of this work stronger, in particular the anonymous reviewers for the journals Literature and Medicine and Written Communication , as well as the participants in the Rhetoric Society of America s 2015 Institute on Theory Building in the Rhetoric of Health and Medicine (especially Jeff Bennett, whose comments on an earlier version of chapter 1 were extremely useful). Last but far from least, we are immensely indebted to Kira Dreher, who, while a research assistant for Carol at the University of Minnesota, helped transcribe and make sense of the Baldwin case notes and contributed a part of that chapter.
It is now time to depart from the plural we. I left the hardest part for last: this book was a difficult project to finish because of the premature illness and death of my coauthor, Carol Berkenkotter. Carol was a shining light in the world of writing studies, a generous, brilliant, beloved scholar who is fondly remembered by her students and colleagues. She was also my mentor, and her work ethic, astuteness, intelligence, and charm will forever be with me. It has been a surreal experience finishing this without her, as she had long set the stage and tone for this research agenda. Thank you, Carol, for sharing your intellect, wisdom, brilliance, and kindness with me and many others who were fortunate enough to work with you.
Cristina Hanganu-Bresch

Studies of nineteenth-century psychiatry have generally focused on famous cases, doctors, or paradigm changes and ideological movements. They have more rarely focused on ordinary individual patients cases as they appeared in primary documents such as case notes, admission documents, Medical Certificates, and so on. We believe that the study of such documents can add to our modern understanding of mental illness as it was perceived in the English-speaking world (Britain and America) in the late nineteenth century and how the subsequent treatment of the insane came to be. In particular, we want to understand the struggle to diagnose mental illness, which had momentous consequences for the life circumstances of the diagnosed. The act of diagnosing mental illness was a watershed moment, triggering a cascade of medicolegal actions that radically changed the course of the patients lives, and which involved extrafamilial authorities to an uncomfortable extent for a large portion of the public. Studying the textual traces of the diagnosis process can help us understand how patients, caught in the mental health system (which in the nineteenth century was the insane asylum), struggled to assert their identity as individuals, provoking in the process debates about the meanings of normality, personhood, identity, and autonomy, to name a few critical topics. Such debates often spilled over into the public sphere via lawsuits, memoirs, newspaper editorials, essays in literary and legal magazines, legislative forums, and so on, forcing ongoing conversations on the issue of the definition, rights, and proper treatment of the mentally ill person.
When asylums mushroomed in early-to mid-nineteenth-century America as a result of the tireless campaigns of humanitarian champions such as Dorothea Dix, they held within the promise of revolutionizing treatment for the insane. As the philosophy went, 1 assuming that they followed a judicious regimen and inpatient routine, patients who were living in such quarters, far removed from the madding crowd, would have the best chance of being restored to sanity. The asylum thus offered a humane ( moral ) treatment for the insane that stood in sharp contrast with some of the more outlandish treatments of the past, such as chaining inmates, giving them cold baths, or putting them in various confining contraptions such as Benjamin Rush s tranquilizer chair. The reality of the confinement, however, dared to disagree with the theory. As populations exploded (especially in cities, due to economic and industrial developments that were hard to foretell), so did the number of the mentally ill and the demand for asylum beds; thus, asylums became, in the words of Robin Ion and Dominick Beer, a strange mix of therapy, social control and moral guardianship. 2
While psychiatric science made little progress, asylums became overcrowded and inefficient, which led to abuse, neglect, and institutional apathy. In most but the most exclusive establishments, asylum doctors became consumed by management issues and devoted little time to actual patients. Psychiatry, already isolated in large out-of-town asylums, also became ostracized as a discipline from other medical specialties; it became what one scholar has described as a backwater specialty. 3 All this, coupled with the realization that a cure for most mental illness was failing to materialize, made the realities of confinement far less idyllic than the original visionaries had prescribed. Thus, it is no wonder that we see, in the second half of the nineteenth century (our focus in this book), more and more discontents with the system.
Confining a person deemed afflicted with a mental disease to the asylum 4 was a pharmakon , both drug and poison, for while it purported to treat psychiatric ailments, it came with the high cost of personal liberty. Accordingly, the lexicon typically used to describe people caught in the legal and prison system, including terms such as confinement, inmates, or cell, permeated the medical language used to describe mentally ill patients and to justify their stay in the asylum. As the two worlds-medical and legal-collided in asylum practice, psychiatry became an object of public scrutiny unlike any other branch of medicine. Consequently, diagnosing, or identifying the nature of the mental illness, became one of psychiatrists primary concerns, resulting in multiple negotiations among patients, families, doctors, the general public, and often legal professionals.
In this book, we attempt to capture the nature of those negotiations, which are by nature rhetorical. By rhetorical we mean that the work of psychiatrists and patients (as well as that of families, writers and journalists, and legal authorities) is one of constant textual persuasion, involving finely crafted arguments, fluid definitions of disease, and careful linguistic choices that could make the difference between an individual s personal liberty and asylum confinement. Such arguments concerned not only the nature of psychiatric disease (which is intrinsically controversial) but were also constrained by the gender and social status of the patients, the professional and legal status of the practitioners, and the larger democratizing and professionalizing forces shaping English and American societies at the end of the nineteenth century.
We are aware of the difficulties of diagnosing patients retrospectively, 5 and that is not our goal here. Rather, we aim to describe some of the ways social and medical actors made sense of mental illness and negotiated diagnoses. In that sense, we try to mirror Robert Aronowitz s goals in Making Sense of Illness , which took a historical approach to the social constructions of diseases such as Lyme disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, and coronary heart disease among others. By examining the controversial nature of these diagnoses, Aronowitz exposed the agendas that drove clinicians and patients and also defined the experience of illness for both. Unlike Aronowitz, who took a broad historical perspective, our inquiry is firmly grounded in specific texts that were central to the mental patient s experience during the period we focus on-the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Thus, we are looking at asylums as cultural sites that generate textual ecosystems revolving around the conditions and nature of psychiatric confinement. The primary texts that we investigate in the chapters that follow, although in the public domain, have not been examined elsewhere to our knowledge, except in our own published works, which form the core of chapters 3 , 4 , and 5 . By analyzing some of these under-researched genres and documents, we hope to contribute new knowledge to the literature on the rhetoric of medicine, the social history of psychiatry, and social studies of science. Additionally, we also look at fiction genres such as sensation novels that claim to be based (entirely and truthfully!) on real cases of wrongful confinement; at least one of these novels has been, to our knowledge, under-researched so far in the literature dealing with nineteenth-century psychiatric history.
The common focus in all chapters is capturing the moment in which a person becomes a psychiatric patient-which often occurs at the juncture of the psychiatric diagnosis. We aim to do so through a close examination of a constellation of genres generated by that diagnosis. While social (institutional, literary, medical, legal) forces demand new and specific genres that describe, define, and regulate mental illness, the documents thus produced have the power to alter the same social factors that required them. For example, in both the United States and the United Kingdom, social pressure regarding alleged asylum abuses gave rise to laws that demanded a stricter control of asylums, partly through more rigorous documentation. The resulting documents (admissions records, patient case histories) were the deciding factor in the destinies of both patients and families. Furthermore, some patients wrote and even published memoirs or sued the asylum as a result of their confinement, generating a fresh wave of public discussion surrounding mental illness (in varied genres such as novels, pamphlets, newspaper columns, or legal debates). Such public discussion led, in turn, to new laws, regulations, and attitudes regarding the treatment of mentally ill patients.

Diagnosing Mental Illness and Wrongful Confinement in the Nineteenth Century
The issue of diagnosis is the moving target in all these documents-though gradually, with the dawn of the twentieth century-the once-unquestioned necessity of asylums as the endpoint of mental patient care gets thrown into question as well. Our analysis homes in on how mental disease is a matter of public negotiation much more than a matter of scientific and medical knowledge. Moreover, we wanted to document the concrete consequences of these public negotiations on actual mentally ill patients whose lives were profoundly altered in this process. With our last chapter, we also offer a glimpse into how that public negotiation of sanity gets professionalized-a matter to be debated amid specialists rather than in courts of public opinion.
As Annemarie Jutel explains, the process of diagnosis provides the framework within which medicine operates, punctuates the values which medicine espouses, and underlines the authoritative role of both medicine and the doctor. 6 Jutel argues that diagnosis refers to both preexisting categories and the process of applying them in practice; it is also a process that reveals what society s standards for normal are and offers a grid for imposing culturally accepted order. 7 There is power at play in the diagnosis: for the doctor who makes it (reflecting the authority and consensus of fellow professionals), for the patient (who is henceforth medicalized, or psychiatrized in our case, and may both gain and lose certain rights), for the discipline of medicine at large, and (in modern times) for medical insurance entities. It is also a matter of authority for the state, as the recognition of certain diseases as parts of the accepted nomenclature may trigger consequences-of the economic, legal, and social variety. For example, admitting the existence of PTSD or of the AIDS epidemic has had momentous consequences for a significant group of afflicted patients from multiple points of view, insofar as it has offered the relief of recognition to previously unnamed suffering and has opened avenues for financial, social, and emotional support; but it also has material consequences for the medical profession and research institutes working on cures and clinical practice guidelines, as well as the state, which will have to allot governmental resources for research and treatment.
In the case of mental illness, while no one doubted its existence, 8 very few could agree on definitions and boundaries-where to carve nature at its joints. The process of imagining and reimagining taxonomies in psychiatry still goes on to this day, though we can trace its modern incarnation to Kraepelinian nosology, something we address in our last chapter. Along the way, we have sought to capture in historical medical texts the inception of diagnosis as a label-and we have tried to corroborate its genealogy in contemporary texts (journalistic and fiction genres). The lessons of the nineteenth-century moral insanity debate, for example, show that diagnosing mental illness as a whole becomes ensnared in controversy the moment it becomes a matter of public discussion. Publicly shared a priori concepts of mental disease will matter more in this instance than professional consensus, and they may even help erode that consensus.
A counterpoint theme to that of diagnosis is the trope of wrongful confinement, which pertains to many of the cases we discuss, and occurs when patients or families dispute the diagnosis and, therefore, the treatment (that is, interference of the state). At a moment when patriarchal familial relationships are tested by modernizing forces such as urbanization, industrialization, capitalism, and population growth, the authority of the family, especially of the patersfamilias, is further undermined by impersonal institutions and regulators. This challenge may lead to public confrontation on the nature of authority affecting a person s legal competence (these are themes that we particularly address in the first two chapters). The trope thus touches on a variety of aspects: the medicolegal aspects of confinement; the social, political, and legal status of asylums and doctors; Victorian morality; American principles of freedom and justice; the public fears of institutional abuses as well of financially motivated villains taking advantage of the system and working under the guise of familial concern; and, of course, debates surrounding the definition and diagnosis of insanity. We must also point out that the trope is sometimes invoked in cases in which the lens of history shows there was little use for it. Such was the case of Ebenezer Haskell, whose complaint of wrongful confinement in the Pennsylvania Hospital won in court in 1868 despite ample expert testimony and extraneous evidence that there was no evidence of an abuse of power and that he had been suffering from a form of mental illness. 9
The recurrence of wrongful confinement cases slowly eroded the public trust in psychiatry; public trials, in which diagnoses were fought in court, revealed severe holes in the doctor s understanding of their own categories and furthermore showed these categories being at odds with the common sense of the common juror. As if the onslaught form the public and legal professions were not enough, psychiatrists were also fending off attacks from fellow professionals as well, such as celebrated neurologist Silas Weir Mitchell, who as late as 1894 delivered a scathing address to the Association of Medical Superintendents of American Institutions for the Insane. Of the gulf separating the progress of psychiatric versus other branches of medicine, Mitchell famously said, With you it has been different. You were the first of the specialists and you have never come back into line. It is easy to see how this came about. You soon began to live apart, and you still do so. Your hospitals are not our hospitals; your ways are not our ways. You live out of range of critical shot; you are not preceded and followed in your ward work by clever rivals, or watched by able residents fresh with the learning of the schools. 10 He deplored the idea that only asylum doctors could care for the insane, as well as the focus on the business side of asylum management; in this, he did not just rely on his observations, but he also echoed battles long fought in court and the newspapers regarding the corrupting influence of money in asylum confinement.
Since courts deal with grey areas but deliver black and white verdicts, an antagonistic relationship has taken shape between asylums and psychiatry in general on the one hand and the general public and the law establishment on the other. To a degree, we have never escaped this antagonism, even though we have long abandoned asylums as psychiatric practice; the criticism has simply moved to other psychiatric instruments, such as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual or psychopharmacology. Psychiatric diagnoses and the medical decisions they engender (such as prolonged hospital stays) can now be (and are) challenged in court in front of a judge and require legal representation and expert testimony.
We look, therefore, at a constellation of genres that have taken pains to justify confinement-or, conversely, that have tried to attack its premises. We spend a great deal of time deciphering the traces patients have left in these texts, knowing, of course, that we cannot exhaust them. We find that Derrida s notion of trace can be successfully applied here to the notion of sanity. Derrida s concept of trace stems from Saussure s observation that a linguistic sign is defined in relation-indeed, in opposition to other signs. It follows, therefore, that any sign contains, a priori, a trace of the term(s) it distinguishes itself from: The structure of the sign is determined by the trace or track of that other which is forever absent. This other is of course never to be found in its full being. 11 In the texts labeling, describing, or contesting sanity and insanity, we continuously have glimpses at these traces, these ghostly memories impregnating a diagnostic label with meaning. When we read certificates of insanity, or case notes, or patient testimony or memoirs, we read about insanity but always in relation to sanity; the conditions that must be met for asylum confinement imply, always, the conditions under which a person would not be considered insane. In a sense, in this book we are trying to weave together these traces.
Our methodology is eclectic and can be broadly subsumed under the umbrella of rhetoric and adjacent fields such as linguistic and sociolinguistics. First and foremost, we engaged with archives, with text: we labored to decipher longhand entries in casebooks and correspondence to which we had access-mostly in the Ticehurst archive hosted by the Wellcome Institute in London, as well as the Quaker archive hosted by the Haverford College Library in Haverford, Pennsylvania. The texts and their stories dictated our approaches: rhetorical, linguistic, and sociolinguistic theory, supplemented by literary theory when the character of the text required it and was underpinned by a historical account. To capture what we set out to do from these archives requires that we engage in what Trevor Turner called rhetorical history. 12 Thus, we subscribe to Turner s view that rhetorical history is a social construction not only in the sense that rhetorical processes constitute historical processes but also in the sense that historical study constructs reality for the society in which and for which it is produced. 13 Like Zarefsky, we believe that the study of historical events from a rhetorical perspective is the most elusive but possibly also the most rewarding because it focuses on how messages are created and used by people to influence and relate to one another. 14 We are mindful of Zarefsky s task for the rhetorical historian to clarify the so what -which in our case is the negotiated nature of mental illness diagnoses and the value clash between individual freedoms and social and institutional constraints. In the end, we put our trust, like Erin Frost and Lisa Melon on, in the capaciousness of rhetoric and the long standing belief that it is a useful tool in both creating and critiquing discourse. 15 We want to reemphasize that this kind of rhetorical history work could not be done without access to a treasure trove of archival materials, such as the ones hosted by the Wellcome Institute. (Unfortunately, access to American psychiatric case notes and asylum archives over one hundred years old remains, at the time of this writing, closed in light of what we consider a restrictive interpretation of patient privacy laws.)
The wider narrative arc that is constructed over the five chapters in this book is roughly one in which legal and public pressures over the domain of medicine governed by psychiatrists (or rather, alienists or asylum professionals) yield modest legislative changes, produce significant shifts in public opinion, and may in the end be echoed in seismic shifts in psychiatric theory and practice. In hindsight, these changes may seem inevitable, but they did not appear so from the trenches. At a particular moment in history, some of the psychiatric patients who found themselves in one of the most vulnerable positions of their lives chose to fight or to tell their story; some did not. We piece together their stories from so-called institutional genre suites (certificates, admission notes, case notes, and so on), court transcripts, journalistic accounts, fictionalized accounts of the patients lives, and patient memoirs. Inevitably, patient stories are often secondhand, and we have to rely on witness testimony, court clerks, doctor accounts, and fiction writers to get an approximation of their identities, to identify and understand the traces that end up in their narrative. At the same time, the patients negotiated identities enter into a dynamics with their public(s) and interlocutors: the way they are presented equally contributes to the professional definition and evolution of the asylum caretakers, journalists, writers, lawyers, and judges that came into contact with them. Always, our focus is on records and other written inscriptions that enter into the asylum ecosystem, enveloping individual patient histories in textual amber. We conclude our narrative arc with an account of how Kraepelinian nosology seeped into the diagnosing practices of asylum doctors, coming at a ripe moment for the psychiatric profession at large, and making it easier to reduce the insane patient to a label as shorthand for observational practice.
The Patient as a Psychiatric and Legal Subject in Nineteenth-Century America

On February 4, 1847, Morgan Hinchman, a thirty-year-old wealthy farmer and member of the Society of Friends (as the Quakers called themselves), traveled from his home in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, to the Philadelphia market to sell his produce. Weary of the day s travails, Hinchman sought to unwind at the Red Lion tavern, one of his favorite haunts. To his surprise, he was soon joined by a group of relatives and friends, who, it soon became clear, were trying to persuade him to check himself into an asylum. They claimed to act on behalf of Hinchman s mother, Eliza, and wife, Margaretta, who, they said, had been worried about his state of mind for a while. Prominent in this group were Hinchman s brothers-in-law Samuel and Edward Richie, as well as Dr. John Griscom, a long-time acquaintance, whose (ultimately failed) mission had been to persuade Hinchman to go willingly. Morgan resisted vehemently but was eventually overpowered, forced into his own wagon, and transported to Friends Asylum, a well-known Quaker asylum for the insane. 1 Hinchman spent nearly half a year there, after which he returned to an impoverished estate, a diminished family-one of his children had died while he was in confinement-and an (even more) estranged wife. Without delay, he sued all those involved for conspiracy to commit him to the asylum and seize his property. 2 He excluded his mother and wife from his complaint, although they had played an important role in the affair.
The resulting Hinchman conspiracy trial of 1849 posed one of the most notable challenges to the American psychiatric commitment system and became the talk of the town, state, and nation. Among many similar cases centering on wrongful confinement, the trial provided a legal landmark in asserting the rights of mental patients and became an often-quoted precedent; it also enjoyed considerable longevity in fiction and nonfiction both when it took place and decades later. The vulnerabilities of the new psychiatric science were exposed, leaving the general public with the uneasy sense that the borders of insanity were fraying and porous rather than solid and impermeable, as a strict interpretation of the law may have imagined them. The Hinchman trial perfectly illustrates the problematic nature of psychiatric confinement in the nineteenth century. It played into the fears of the middle and upper classes that an impenetrable, tyrannical system based on what was at best questionable science could deprive them of their freedoms and, worse, of their property. Thus, it featured a healthy dose of moral and public outrage at what was perceived to be betrayal by one s own family. One of its central issues was the highly questionable notion of moral insanity, a diagnosis intermittently (though not universally) used throughout the nineteenth century to label eccentric, abnormal behavior that did not conform to acceptable social mores; it was often applied to the criminally insane. (The defendants unsuccessfully pinned their strategy on this diagnosis.) Finally, the case generated a plethora of interpretant texts produced as a result of the event, or what sociolinguists 3 would call uptake -that is, a sequence of interacting texts, spurred by a speech act (in this case, Hinchman s accusation that a large group of people conspired against his person). In addition to coverage in the Public Ledger (a prominent Philadelphia newspaper), the trial generated numerous editorials, pamphlets, and articles interpreting the outcome of the case, including a series of letters published in the New York Home Journal meant to skew the decision in favor of the defendants. Furthermore, twenty years later, the trial generated a fresh batch of commentary, this time with the express purpose of changing confinement laws.
The focus on moral insanity as a diagnosis troubled the notion of normality and free will in relation to insanity and prompted existential questions regarding the nature of rationality, health, and illness (at least judging by the reactions in the press). Furthermore, the terms of the debate framed psychiatry s concern with the normal as a technique of social control-a charge that psychiatry still has trouble shedding to this day. We will discuss these arguments through the lens of the dissociative pair normal/norm proposed by Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca; this dissociation may offer a useful interpretive frame for the perilous negotiations between psychiatry and law in the second half of the nineteenth century-and to a certain extent, to the borderland skirmishes that exist even today between those two spheres.

Psychiatry and Law in the Nineteenth Century: An Uneasy Alliance
Alienists, physicians, and, asylum keepers working with mental illness in the eighteenth and nineteenth century were attempting to make sense of madness in the context of limited and ineffective treatments and changing social mores. The Enlightenment mandate of scientific progress required them to find rational and measurable means, which meant finding a way to hold insanity writhing under the microscope in order to observe and extract its universal features. In asylums, this type of scientific scrutiny took the form of laborious case notes that would eventually thicken into the descriptive psychopathologies of the modern psychiatric era. Other branches of science and medicine-pathology, experimental science, medical technology-made due progress in unison during this time: it was a glorious new era buoying hopes that psychiatry s turn was just around the corner as well. Yet that turn never quite came. The one exception was the quickly debunked science of phrenology, 4 which claimed to predict a rational, observable, and measurable way to witness the human mind; although by the 1840s its theories had been disproven, its influence continued to be felt in the general quest toward defining localized functions and diseases of the brain and correlating them with behavior.
Even before the rise of phrenology, confidence in the new science of the mind had instilled enthusiasm in some of the more prominent doctors of the new American democracy, who thought that science should play a more prominent role in legal affairs, thus offering a scientific basis on which to judge human behavior and build an enlightened utopia. Benjamin Rush (considered both the father of American medicine and American psychiatry) championed the study of medical jurisprudence, which Rush deemed not only useful but also a way to expand the social role of his profession. 5 He exhorted young physicians to study this subject so that they may extend its benefits beyond our courts of justice, to the legislatures of our country, and thereby become the means of obtaining laws formed upon modern discoveries and opinions in physiologies. 6 Such a view can be considered progressive, but it can also be made to serve the sociopolitical machine, with science cherry-picked just so it would serve the status quo. For example, one of the prevalent explanations for the rise of mental illness diagnosis throughout the nineteenth century (dating back to the work of Jean- tienne Dominique Esquirol) was that it was caused by the debilitating effects of modern civilization (a surprisingly old and enduring scapegoat for just about everything deviant, from criminality to insanity to unconventional sexuality). Similar opinions were suffused with racial ideology in places such as the American South, where some doctors believed that insanity rarely existed among people of color because they were incapable of progress and even argued for a form of insanity called drapetomania (obsession with freedom or escaping slavery). 7 A ridiculous concept? No doubt, but useful in upholding ownership rights and naturalizing slavery.
Our definitions of, and responses to, madness are shaped by two key institutions: the legal and criminal justice system and the various systems of health and welfare, observes David Jones in a recent book-length study of moral insanity in England. 8 The goal of social control shared by state powers and medical (and in particular psychiatric) institutions need hardly be explained in a post-Foucault era. Yet the relationship between the two systems is multifaceted, as families could use the medical (asylum) system to solve financial and social dilemmas related to family members; and patients, conversely, could use the legal systems to solve their medical and social problems. For patients who could afford the expenses of a trial, the court was the most important recourse in presenting their own story. In many cases of wrongful confinement, the narrative the patients presented after their release was one of rejection of their diagnosis of mental illness: they simply denied that they had ever been insane, although they stopped short of questioning scientific or societal standards for insanity. Rather, they placed the blame on one or a handful of unscrupulous individuals with ulterior motives; and if anything, they embraced commonly held ideas of normality or upstanding citizenship in order to nobly measure up their own lives against those ideas. We can see this in many notable trials, such as the one in 1868 of Elizabeth Ware Parsons Packard, who had been confined to an asylum for three years by her husband, who claimed that she was unusually religious; 9 she won the case and turned into one of the most active anti-asylum advocates. We can also see this in the case of Ebenezer Haskell, also in 1868, who escaped the Pennsylvania Hospital for the Insane several times before eventually suing and winning a case against the celebrated Dr. Thomas Kirkbride, one of the architects of the modern asylum. Both Packard and Haskell published memoirs attesting to the righteousness of their cases and protesting the institution of the asylum and the low legal standards for asylum confinement; Hinchman did not. However, he fought the system in court and similarly refused to acknowledge that there was any reason for his confinement; additionally, he became the subject of many pamphlets, articles, essays, and eventually a serialized novella by Rebecca Harding-Davis, in which he became a token symbol in the fight against the institutionalization system. Unlike other cases, Hinchman s hinged on habeas corpus: presenting proof that he was, actually, insane. The debate opened a window into how the law and popular opinion regarded insanity, and the reverberations of the case some twenty years later turned Hinchman into a social justice martyr. Hinchman s actual words and thoughts are sparsely recorded in the judicial records in the form of the letters he sent from the asylum and nothing more (he did not testify in his trial, but witnesses reported his speech and actions). His was a mediated identity, filtered through a prismatic understanding of normality as an oppositional term to insanity. As a result, he appeared at times to be an unhinged villain and/or lunatic, and at others a hapless and misunderstood victim. The law, ultimately, sided with him.
In a similar case just five years prior to Hinchman s, when another asylum patient sued the state for wrongful confinement, the 1845 Oakes decision in Massachusetts upheld the right to restrain insane persons [as] a part of the great law of humanity. Hinchman s trial occurred at a time when wrongful confinement was starting to become a well-known trope in literature as well as public discourse and formed the premise of many other cases through the 1860s. For a medical historian like Patricia D Antonio, the case also signaled a shift in the relationship between families and institutions, involving intricate negotiations in which sanctioned institutional authority could either support or subvert the power relationships within the private world of the family. 10 From that point of view, the decision taken by Morgan Hinchman s family to turn to an Asylum admission simultaneously undermined Hinchman s own patriarchal authority and saved him from the state s power to adjudicate his behavior as criminal. 11

Moral Insanity: The Vital Arc of an Aporetic Concept
Throughout the nineteenth century, medical experts specializing in mental illness were more and more often called to the stand to testify in cases that seemed puzzling or that required defenses involving recourse to the new science of the mind. Experts were called upon not only in cases of wrongful confinement (which became notorious in both England and the United States), but also in cases of testamentary disputes. Toward the middle of the nineteenth century, the diagnosis of moral insanity became a staple in legal challenges and defenses in American courtrooms. Moral insanity-the capacity of an otherwise sane mind to act bizarrely or offensively in certain aspects of life, or the irrationality of an otherwise rational mind-had been consecrated as a diagnostic in British and American psychiatry by James Cowles Prichard, 12 who had followed the cues of French luminaries such as Philippe Pinel and Jean- tienne Dominique Esquirol. Although Prichard is often quoted in most discussions of moral insanity, he is relevant to this discussion of American practice only insofar as he was often invoked as an authority, although, apparently, without being fully understood. There have been numerous readings and interpretations of Prichard s account of this category, but a recent and more intriguing interpretation by German Berrios maintains, quite convincingly, that Prichard had attempted to use the label of moral insanity to describe a condition poorly understood or described in the literature at the time: manic-depressive disorder, or what is now called bipolar disorder. Berrios argues that while the traditional view of madness was restricted to intellectual and cognitive impairments with distinctive psychotic features, Prichard was operating under the assumption that volitional and affective madness were also clinically possible. 13 Thus, Prichard expanded the definition of insanity ( a disorder of the system by which the sound and healthy exercise of the mental faculties is impeded or disturbed ) 14 to include moral insanity, whose chief characteristics were the lack of intellectual injury and the presence of moral depravation or perversion manifested through morbid or disturbed feelings, temper, or habits-in short, what Berrios describes as a rag bag of behavioural disorders whose only common feature was an absence of delusions. 15 The morally insane were so in conduct-not ideas.
In the United States, the concept of moral insanity gained ground especially due to the efforts of Isaac Ray (1807-1881), a doctor who, although he had no formal training in psychiatry or asylum experience, made a name and career for himself as a forensic psychiatrist and eventually as an asylum superintendent. 16 His Treatise on the Medical Jurisprudence of Insanity , first published in 1838, went through four editions and was arguably the most influential book on the subject in nineteenth-century America; by the 1860s, however, Ray s authority had been sorely challenged and his influence was waning. Ray, who apparently carefully collected newspaper clippings describing court cases of interest to him in addition to consulting his preferred trio of French alienists (Pinel, Esquirol, and tienne-Jean Georget), had manifested an early interest in phrenology but was forced to sanitize most of his later writing of any deliberate allusions to Franz Joseph Gall and Johann Kaspar Spurzheim as their theories had fallen out of favor. 17 However, he made moral insanity the lynchpin of his entire jurisprudence, believing it to be caused by a physiological derangement localized in the brain. He connected moral insanity with irresistible impulses out of the person s control; he described internal battles between affective and intellectual powers (the affective won in the case of moral insanity); he described the many facets of the monomanias that affected victims of moral insanity: homicidal insanity, kleptomania, erotic mania, incendiarism. The common thread connecting these crimes was their lack of motive: the victim was powerless when confronted with these irresistible impulses; there was no free will. In a court of law judging a case of arson, therefore, a Ray supporter would describe the perpetrator as a victim.
Needless to say, there were many problems with Ray s argument, chief among which was the circular reasoning: mental disease is the cause of the crime, which in turn is (often) the only symptom of the disease. This is a perfect aporetic circle, a medicolegal ouroboros. John Starrett Hughes, author of a very thorough monograph on Ray s life and juridical doctrines, notes:

Ray, though, failed to grasp that his proof of moral insanity was in fact a tautology: first, he defined certain deviant behaviors-like compulsive, seemingly motiveless lawbreaking despite knowledge of its wrongness-as disease; then, quite sincerely, he demanded that professional observations of those same behaviors proved that the disease existed. He never fully understood that someone standing outside his universe of assumptions about insanity might logically object to his conclusions. Objective evidence of disease, not just doctors saying it was so, was needed before a different uniform law could even be considered. 18
Such objective evidence, needless to say, failed to appear, which only served to convince Ray further of the righteousness of his cause, the infallibility of experts (at least as long as they subscribed to his views), and the uselessness of juries in these matters. In effect, by proposing himself and others like him to be the sole judge of responsibility and by making responsibility a bodily function whose derangement could only be recognized by the medical expert, Ray closed the loop between the medical and legal system. The medical expert was also the judicial one, since only he-and indeed, the doctor was almost always a he-could ascertain the existence of disease. This version of the medicolegal system came perilously close to the one satirized by Samuel Butler in Erewhon (1872), where to be insane was considered a crime but to commit a crime was proof of insanity. Ray s scientific theories had a very practical and sweeping implication that erased the border between the two systems (Rush would have been proud!). Under his proposed law, someone who was insane at the moment the crime was committed could not be found legally responsible and would be sent to an asylum under medical supervision for the rest of his or her life. Thus, Ray aimed to achieve the perfect fusion of asylum and prison, with little or no distinction between the two.
Naturally, common law (through courts, juries, judges, and lawyers) resisted this interpretation. The moral insanity argument was used by alienists to justify their practice in wrongful confinement trials or by lawyers in legal succession or even criminal cases. Notoriously, this defense was used in the trial of Lewis Payne, a Lincoln assassination conspirator; the diagnosis crept up, extraordinarily, in the wake of another presidential assassination: Charles Guiteau was also presumed by some psychiatrists to be morally insane at the time of his attempt on the life of President James Garfield. 19 However, the rise of the insanity plea was unanimously met with wariness and resistance. Essentially, moral insanity (full or partial) allowed experts to explain a variety of immoral acts, including murder, as variations of insanity and thus cast doubts upon the issue of responsibility; it also allowed for a rather muddled interpretation of normality and abnormality for an increasingly suspicious American populace. The public demanded just punishment for perceived crimes, whereas the insanity defense was perceived as a subversive expedient undermining the moral foundations of society.
Testamentary challenges on grounds of moral insanity were met with similar resistance. In a comprehensive study of family law and inheritance in nineteenth-century Kentucky, Yvonne Pitts sums up the confusing, troubled collaboration between psychiatry and law in nineteenth-century America. Courts, she argues, were equally eager to uphold the foundational principles of the (still fresh) U.S. Constitution and at the same time embrace new scientific theories that held the potential to assist the preservation of those principles, while shrinking away from some of the uncomfortable conclusions of the new science:

To jurists, the disease model of deviance propounded by medical experts offered both promise and peril. New theories of insanity furnished modern, scientific, and seemingly objective explanations for iniquitous wills. Most eccentric behavior could be symptomatic of insanity, providing ready justification for overturning wills that deviated from traditional patterns of choosing legitimate bloodline beneficiaries. The new theories could be appropriated to reinforce the centuries-old legal structures that consolidated wealth in white familial bloodlines. Simultaneously, the new theories threatened to undermine the post-American Revolution foundational assumption that individuals freely decided to make moral or immoral decisions. Jurists and experts on both sides of the debate direly warned that these new theories risked destabilizing decades, if not centuries, of inheritance law. 20
Aside from its circular logic, the problems with the moral insanity doctrine were therefore numerous. It denied free will and responsibility to people who were otherwise intellectually functional and understood the social contract; it stood against some of the basic founding principles of the United States; it threatened common-sense assumptions that juries were susceptible to; it effectively blurred the boundaries between prison and asylum. There was also the problem of lucid intervals, a doctrine that permitted lawyers to argue (successfully) that mad persons were in fact sane at the time they committed the crime, or vice versa. And then, there were dissenters from within the profession, such as Ray s nemesis, John Gray, a superintendent of the New York Utica State Asylum, who famously objected to the moral insanity doctrine on religious grounds: men, he claimed, had free will bestowed by God and the power to choose between right and wrong; they were not biological, deterministic machines as Ray would have it. In general, medical experts diverged widely on the subject; as one historian of psychiatry notes, The threshold at which various signs, symptoms, and historical information indicates insanity or eccentricity vary widely by author and is often set with mere assertion and expression of personal taste. 21 All in all, such variations did not inspire the public or the courts with confidence.
It was altogether too much for the legal system to handle. Ray despaired, concluding that the law was immune to scientific progress. As one of the founding members and presidents of the Association of Medical Superintendents of American Institutions for the Insane (the precursor to the American Psychiatric Association) and as an asylum superintendent himself, he used his position to promote his views by publishing prodigiously and testifying in court in relevant cases. Nevertheless, his prominence in the field notwithstanding, Ray only had modest success in defending his doctrine. Moral insanity proved just too contentious and threatening to the very foundations of the justice system because of its muddling of the concept of individual responsibility; by the end of the nineteenth century, it ceased to be accepted by any court as a valid argument. Medical jurisprudence in general was in similar bad shape, according to Yvonne Pitts: Medical jurisprudence, a movement initially characterized by doctors and jurists confident enthusiasm, fractured under its own internal contradictions. Appellate jurists came to realize that what might appear to juries as prevarication by medical experts was inherent in the medical research on insanity. Expert testimony would not yield the certainty doctors and jurists had hoped it would. Instead, it created ambiguity and dissention in both professions. 22
While the concept appeared on the surface to reconcile jurisprudence and scientific advances, it was impossible to put into practice because of its numerous inconsistencies, internecine battles, and psychiatry s lower status as a science; additionally, notorious cases were usually judged twice, in court and in public opinion, and often abstraction won over fact. Eventually, moral insanity fell out of favor as a diagnosis and legal strategy, but echoes of the concept remain in the idea of temporary insanity, which is a valid legal defense still used to this day. Moral insanity shows how psychiatry s persistence in placing borders protecting normality resulted in the creation of an unsustainable nosology, a category that soon became bloated and disproportionately used in courts to either justify criminal acts or to attack testamentary dispositions (which thus threatened inheritance laws and a whole system of distributing property-a threat the system did not tolerate). Psychiatrists involved in jurisprudence were placing their bets on a science that was far from being as solid as they were representing it.
Moral insanity may not have started as an aporetic concept if we are to trust Berrios s interpretation of Prichard; however, it became one with Ray s assiduous campaign of transforming psychiatry effectively into a juridical specialty (or the judicial system into an extension of psychiatric practice). It led to both juridical and medical paradoxes, to distorted court arguments, to revolts of common sense. It did not end up improving the lives of the mentally ill or making the legal system more just: rather, it pushed both the medical jurisprudence into a veritable cul-de-sac, with no way back and no way forward. The tracks laid by Rush and Ray did not lead to the progressive future they envisioned. Criminal law had to adjust its reliance on expert witnesses; laws that dealt with asylum confinement at the time had to take into account Ray s arguments, among other things, and make careful provisions regarding expert certification of madness. 23 To this day, psychiatry and law often intersect-in different, though no less contentious ways. The case of moral insanity and its sixty-plus-year career is a perfect bundle of contradictions that illustrate the aporetic impasse at the core of the psychiatric-legal complex: At what point does public interest prevail over individual rights? Is justice possible-and compatible with humane and correct psychiatric treatment of those who need it? Where does normal end and abnormal begin? Is it possible to understand insanity, treat it fairly, dissect it, respect it, historicize it, and incorporate it in our juridical proceedings in such a way so that justice can be achieved? History-from those early cases such as Hinchman s to the books, movies, and documentaries born of the antipsychiatry movement in the 1960s and 1970s 24 -has shown our own persistent impasse in imagining that possibility.

Friends Asylum
A little background on the institution to which Morgan Hinchman was taken is in order. Friends Asylum, sometimes called Frankford Asylum, was the first private, nonprofit, exclusively mental hospital in the United States. The asylum was built by Quakers (hence the name Friends ) between 1812 and 1817 in Frankford, about ten miles from the center of Philadelphia; it was modeled after a similar Quaker institution, the York Retreat in England, opened in 1796. Quakers were very influential in Philadelphia and its surroundings (the Pennsylvania colony was founded by William Penn, an eminent Quaker); their philosophy resonated with the surge of the moral treatment in psychiatry 25 and permeated the early days of the asylum. Seclusion from the outside world was a prime directive in the treatment of the insane; emphasis was also placed on outdoor exercise, supervision, and discipline.

FIGURE 1.1. The Friends Asylum for the Insane, ca. 1840. Lithograph.
Commitment to the asylum was usually initiated by the family or close friends of the patient, who needed to fill out an application for admission, which also stipulated that they would pay for the room and board of the patient for a minimum of thirteen weeks. According to Pennsylvania law, the application had to be accompanied by a certificate signed by a physician attesting that the patient was in a state of insanity, and proper to be received into a house provided for the relief of persons of that description. The certificate included a questionnaire that had to be completed in detail regarding the status of the patient, the causes of his or her disease, a description of the derangement, a medical history, and so on-in short, it was a supporting document justifying the doctor s decision. Finally, the manager of the asylum (who was usually not a doctor in those early days) signed a notice of admission.
In Hinchman s case, the lunacy certificate was obtained from a Dr. Kite, who knew Hinchman from the Friends meetings but had not seen him for at least four months; the doctor had also omitted filling out the questionnaire portion of the certificate. Forty-eight hours after Hinchman s arrival at Friends, an inquisition jury consisting of six persons assembled under the supervision of the sheriff of Bucks County and traveled to Frankford to examine the evidence for the Quaker farmer s insanity. After hearing the witnesses (but not Hinchman himself), the jury concluded that Morgan Hinchman is, at the time of taking this inquisition, a lunatic, and hath been a lunatic since eighteen months last past, and doth not enjoy lucid intervals. 26 The superintendent of the asylum, Philip Garrett, offered an affidavit attesting to the accuracy of the diagnosis: I believed him to be insane while he was in the Asylum, and never thought that he was placed there for any other purpose but to cure him. 27 A closer look at the filings reveals that one of the accused conspirators, William Biddle, was Garrett s son-in-law, which furthered the impression of conspiracy.
The court proceedings include a thorough and complimentary account of the Friends Asylum. However, Hinchman s original court filing contends that, while there, the plaintiff did suffer and undergo many and great cruel hardships and distress, both of body and mind, and was subjected to great damage, discomfort, terror, and afrightment, and was thereby during a long space of time, to wit, for the space of six months, deprived of his natural liberty, which he ought to have had and enjoyed. 28 Much of the distress and damage probably came from a thoroughly documented early incident in which a violent resident of the institution struck Morgan s head, after which the two patients were kept in strictly separate quarters. Morgan s letters document, however, much more mental than bodily suffering.

The Hinchman Conspiracy Trial
Morgan Hinchman spent nearly six months in the asylum. At first he was strictly confined; then he gradually gained more access to the grounds. While there, the youngest of his three children died after an illness. Hinchman claimed to have planned his escape with the aid of an uncle, managing to get out in July 1847 (Superintendent Garrett maintained that Hinchman was always free to go at will). Hinchman brought a civil suit against a total of fifteen people (including his sister, sister-in-law, brothers-in-law, four separate doctors, and the superintendent of the asylum), accusing them of conspiring to deprive him of liberty in order to take possession of his property. Indeed, immediately after his confinement, the Richies and Elizabeth Shoemaker (the sister-in-law) had seized control of his assets such as real estate and had started selling his possessions, including livestock and furniture, ostensibly because of Hinchman s debt and mismanagement of his property.
The press, sensing a good story, 29 turned it into a sensational event, the talk of Philadelphia and the region. 30 The proceedings of the trial were printed almost in their entirety in the Public Ledger , which took an immediate and unambiguous interest in this case, publishing several editorials expressing outrage over Hinchman s treatment at the hands of his family and disgust at the defendants motives. The judge ordered the two parties to build their case around Hinchman s mental health status, making it into a habeas corpus issue. In short, the plaintiff had to demonstrate Hinchman s sanity, and the defense had to prove his insanity; the most convincing argument would win. A lengthy roster of witnesses for the plaintiff declared that Hinchman had never exhibited symptoms of insanity; the sordid financial aspects of the affair were also emphasized. For their part, the defendants repudiated the claim that they had profited from any transactions involving Hinchman s property (any profits allegedly went to his wife, Margaretta) and paraded their own witnesses to Hinchman s alleged insanity.

Was Hinchman Insane?
The witnesses for the plaintiff declared that, to the best of their knowledge, there was nothing crazy about Morgan Hinchman, although they admitted he had oddities. They portrayed Hinchman as a shrewd, calculating businessman, with a sanguine and excitable temperament, who could take care of his family and property, despite claims to the contrary. For their part, the defendants claimed that they acted entirely (and selflessly) at the bequest of Hinchman s mother and wife, who had for some time witnessed an alarming deterioration in Morgan s mood and disposition, and had suffered as a result of his insanity. The defense lawyer, Charles Gibbons, cited an abundance of evidence in favor of Hinchman s partial insanity as a subset of moral insanity from respectable psychiatrists such as Rush and Prichard. 31 He also resorted to legal cases, anecdotes, and psychiatric case histories to reconcile the immense amount of contradictory evidence in the case: the number of witnesses believing Hinchman to be sane equaled those who believed him to be the opposite.
Two major incidents were hotly debated as arguments for Hinchman s insanity. First, there was the bank incident: Hinchman confessed that he had stolen money ( 500) from the bank where he had once worked in order to pay a debt. However, consumed by guilt, he returned the money shortly thereafter. He notified a bank employee and his mother, who both believed him to be insane at the time. Then, there was the orchard incident. Margaretta wanted to pick apples from a particular tree, but Morgan denied her request. His mother noted that the wife had every right to get the apples she wanted and went to pick the apples herself. Morgan seized the basket and allegedly dragged his mother forcefully by the arm out of the orchard, despite her protests and cries for help (the mother claimed that she needed medical care for a week). Both of these episodes were debated at length in court as well as in the anonymous letters sent to the New York Home Journal at the time of the trial.
These episodes were punctuated by anecdotal evidence from witnesses on both sides of the stand that accumulated into a speckled portrait of the plaintiff: he appeared to be greedy and constantly preoccupied with money and business; he had forced his wife to sign her considerable property over to him (including a farm); he was often seen talking excitedly and incoherently while rushing about his business; he was prone to violence towards children and horses (he was seen whipping a neighbor s child-an episode he later apologized for but could not explain-as well as a stubborn mare that he intended to break ); he was moody and morose (one witness traced the beginning of this behavior to his wedding day, during which he seemed not to enjoy himself at all); he required his mother to pay her board while she was visiting and treated her unkindly on other occasions; he was seen, by both wife and in-laws, acting strangely around the house (throwing himself on the floor, rolling, getting up and running into the street, returning and repeating these actions while sighing, groaning, or even howling); he got up to speak during a Friends meeting in a rambling, incoherent, and wild manner; he drove a hard bargain over a pittance, beyond what was considered reasonable; he was not always affectionate towards his wife; he took baths stark naked in the middle of the kitchen while the maid could see him (she quit

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