Two Assassins: Psychiatric Discourse and the Rise of Criminology, 1882-1901

Cary Federman, Duquesne University

This paper will explore the role of medical jurisprudence in the U.S. toward the end of the nineteeth century, paying specific attention to the medical profession's analyses of two presidential assassins: Charles Guiteau, who shot Garfield, and Leon Czolgosz, who shot McKinley. In particular, I will analyze aned contrast the Guiteau and Czolgosz trials in the context of changes in fin de siecle forensic psychiatry and the developing criminological discourse used against immigrants and anarchists. In the Guiteau trial, the medical profession took an active role in the debate over Guiteau's sanity. Twenty years later, the medical profession concluded that Czolgosz's silence at his trial was a form of the disease "anarchism," which promotes silence among its members, and abandoned any interest in trying to explain psychologically Czolgosz's crime. I want to describe the political changes that were taking place in the twenty years that separate the two assassinations, for example, the rise of anarchism at the Haymarket Riots in Chicago and the celebration of America's overseas successes at the Pan-American Exposition, where McKinley was shot, and relate those developments to the medical profession's changing understanding of insanity at the beginning of the century.

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Updated 05/20/2006