Full text: Problems in eugenics

374Section IV.Magnan and 
the mother, and in 53 to both; in 538 there was no information, and in 
1,124 the father and mother (says the author) were sober. In 298 cases 
there was absolute certainty that, the father or the mother was drunk at the 
moment of conception, and a probability in 122. The percentages of these 
different categories come out thus : 35.3% fathers had drunk to excess, 3.2% 
mothers, and 1.6% both parents; or 40.6% parents excessive drinkers and 
43.5% sober. 
We consider these numbers in defect of the truth in respect of maternal 
alcoholism, which, unfortunately, is becoming more and more frequent. Of 
1,000 children of alcoholics, about one-third disappears at birth or in the 
first two or three years; among the survivors are counted many idiots, 
epileptics, and a large number of degenerates destitute of moral sense, in­ 
stinctively perverted, impulsive, abnormal, miserable victims of their parents’ 
alcoholism. One of us wrote in 1910 that a glance at the great group 
of mental degeneracies, the result of parental alcohol, was enough to con­ 
vince one that alcohol provides the men’s quarters in the asylums of the 
Seine with three-quarters of their population (1). The greater part of 
these unfortunate degenerates, with their physical, mental, and moral 
defects, count alcoholics among their ascendants; to this miserable cause 
they owe their lack of mental balance, which is the root cause of all 
psychical mischief. This is one of the cruellest results of alcoholism, 
that it not only profoundly alters the individual, but transmits to his 
descendants defects which make of them invalids or criminals, of which 
the net result to society is a heavy surcharge and a serious danger (2). 
Several of them have made alternate sojourns at the asylum and at the prison. 
Among the children that result from such unions we discover an exces­ 
sive nervous susceptibility, an abnormal reflex excitability; those that are 
not killed by tuberculosis or convulsions often show a peculiar failing 
towards alcoholic drink, and an imperious craving for its use. These 
statistical facts, frequently revealed by the work of the admission bureau, 
have become classical; Legrain in particular has noted it 63 times in 102 
cases (3). How can we wonder if from that time the number of degenerates 
shows an increase parallel with the progress of alcoholism? 
These patients possess a high interest from the clinical point of view. 
With them alcohol often provokes an explosion of delirium, whose intensity 
is so out of proportion to the excess committed, that to explain it we have to 
fall back on the theory of degeneracy. 
Almost all come to the asylum with a fairly active alcoholic delirium, 
which generally disappears very quickly, leaving unveiled the psychic 
troubles, which but for the excitement of the drinking bout would have 
remained latent, but which, once developed, remain far longer than the 
(1) Magnan—Report, 1910. 
(2) Magnan—Report, 1905-1907 
(3) Doin, Paris, “ Heredity and Alcohol,” 1889.

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