The Case of John Sobiesky Against the People of America

I

JOHN SOBIESKY is a Lithuanian. He came to America a young man of seventeen. He was of peasant stock, strong, erect, clear-eyed, and equal to hard work. His picture is before me as I write. He had a sister, brothers, and other relatives in the coal mines of an Eastern state. These he sought, and asked for work. He found that a straight line was not always the shortest distance between the worker and the job. He inquired for the door to opportunity, and a saloon door was shown to him — one of many between the homes of the workers and the mine pit. He entered the saloon, asked for a drink, and then for a job in the mine. He got both — at least he got a card which got a job for him where previously he was refused.

Strong-armed and sinewy, he began his task. The saloon was a Lithuanian resort, and he went there occasionally for a drink and a chat with his landsmen. But he cared little for drink and was not a good customer. Soon the saloon-keeper called him aside and warned him that the hand that gave could withdraw.

‘What you want?' asked John, thereby heavily draining his stock of ready English.

‘Spend more of your wages in my saloon if you want to keep your job.’

So he spent a little more time and money there, but his custom lagged and he was reminded sharply of his dereliction. He appealed to his friends, but they told him that the labor boss seemed to have mutually beneficial relations with the saloonkeeper, and he would best heed the warning. The saloon-keeper had declared that a certain miner, who did not demonstrate his appreciation of the saloon-keeper’s aid in getting him a job, would lose the job because of his base ingratitude. Soon he lost it. When the labor boss was appealed to, he shrugged his shoulders and said nothing.

So John drank more and saved less. He even spent all his spare wages at the saloon one Saturday night, and got drunk. When he next entered the saloon, the keeper clapped him on the back and said he was a good fellow. This commendation raised John in the estimation of his friends. John did some thinking, but his thoughts were not good and his conclusions did not go to the making of a good American.

The making of this American progressed along lines approved by the potent saloon-keeper and the corrupt labor boss. After a little over a year John met another American educator — a doctor. John overstrained himself, producing a rupture, and was forced to suspend work. In a local newspaper he read the advertisement of a cure by a doctor — at least such was the claim, and the proper authorities failed to check the probable fraud. Fifty dollars was demanded for the cure, to be paid in advance. On the second visit to the doctor, John happened to open his pocketbook and the doctor saw there was something left. He told John he must have more pay for the cure. John protested that he had only $28 and that he needed this to pay for his room and board while he was under the doctor’s care. But the doctor was firm, refused to return the $50 already paid when John threatened to call in ‘the squire,’ and shut the office door in his face.

Then John cursed and swore and spent his remaining cash on a real drunk of despair. When he was in danger of getting sober, he disposed of some of his belongings and got drunk again. The debauch lasted two weeks. It appears that John had developed a case of alcoholic epilepsy in his American sojourn, entirely new to him until the saloon-keeper and the labor boss got to work; and this contributed to his mental and physical downfall.

The last day of John’s debauch was Easter Sunday, the Lithuanian church festival celebrated more as we celebrate Christmas. He sobered a bit and called on some of his relatives. Later they swore that he looked wild-eyed, and used rough language to an old woman who criticized his appearance. But the women-folks got the old woman away and soothed John’s befuddled brain and sullen temper.

In the early evening John and his roommate took a walk. Two strangers bumped into John and knocked his hat off. This was too much for John’s nerves and temper, still smarting with the repressed desire to get even with the doctor. A boy laughed at his bare head, and John savagely warned him to look out for himself. John and his companion returned to their room. John got out his razor and went out in search of the man who had knocked off his hat, while his companion lay down for a nap.

John failed to find his quarry, so returned to his room. For an instant he regarded his sleeping friend, with whom he had never quarreled, then walked over to the bed and cut his throat. The man groaned and John slashed him again. Then he was silent. John threw down his razor and with bloody hands, blood-bespattered clothing, and bare head dashed out of the house, went up to the first policeman he saw, and asked for the police station, saying ‘I want to see the captain; I have killed a man.’ At the station he repeated his declaration and gave his address. He was put in a cell, slept for an hour, then was awakened, and told the whole story of the killing without reserve. But his real awakening occurred about two weeks later, when he came to himself and asked in a maze how he happened to be behind iron bars in the jail.

Here ended the first chapter of the making of John into an American. In due season he was tried, convicted of murder in the first degree, in spite of the testimony of relatives and others as to his irresponsible condition, and sentenced to be hanged. John afterward stated that, not speaking English, he understood nothing of the testimony against him. He adds, ‘I still mistrust myself as being the author of such a horrible deed.’

Only one incident of the trial will be mentioned. A Methodist preacher, who had not known John but came to know him when he was waiting for the halter, had a talk on the night of the murder with the police captain who declared John to have been half-drunk when he surrendered himself. On the trial the prosecuting attorney wished to prove that John was fully responsible for his deed, and the captain then testified that John was sober when put under arrest. Shocked by his declaration, the clergyman took the stand and repeated the earlier statement to him. The captain stuck to his testimony, however, and the jury believed that the clergyman, like the relatives, lied for sentimental reasons.

One who has seen this clergyman in the militant uniform of an army chaplain which he now wears thinks he is not that kind. At least he had fighting blood, and when the halfbaked or half-burned immigrant was ordered to the gallows, he would not let the verdict stand, but went to the Governor and visited the jurors man by man. Eleven of them joined the clergyman in an appeal for John when they were told the whole story unwillingly recounted by John, who was inclined to let the bell, the hangman’s bell, ring down the play. His tale was checked up at several points, and the truth was found to be better for him than he represented it. So the Governor commuted his sentence to life imprisonment, and he began to serve his term. His only friend was this Samaritan, though in this case the Samaritan was a Protestant priest, who did not pass by but visited him regularly in prison.

II

A couple of years pass, and we ring up the curtain on a new scene. John was now cured of his bodily infirmities, or seemed to be. A very busy but very kind woman, some years John’s senior, took an interest in him. His letters to her reveal what the story might have been if the saloon-keeper, the labor boss, and the dishonest doctor had not been his teachers of Americanism.

This second chapter shall be told in John’s own words. Remember that he was an uneducated Lithuanian peasant, whose English was chiefly gained through unaided toil during two years in prison. Did John belong in that prison? On different visits each of five different supervisors spontaneously and independently informed the lady, his new friend, that he did not. The warden, by no means a mollycoddler, also said that he did not. The reader shall decide. No harm will be done by your decision, gentle reader. You cannot release him now.

Let us begin with John’s backward glance at his early life and parents in the old country.

Replying to the first letter of his friendly correspondent this uncultured peasant writes (I change only a few errors of spelling): ‘I received your most welcome letter few days ago and I appreciate from all my heart especially because I have found a friend to help me in my great troubles and difficulty of my life journey through which I am traveling. It is more than pleasure to trace these lines in the hope of coming to the closer acquaintance, and if possible to the personal meeting in the future. I would like to acquaint you with my character and personality so that you might have an idea what sort of correspondent you have.

‘I was born on the 24th of June, 1893, in the country of Russia. My parents being of poor working class of peoples had no means to educate me on any professional point, nor had they an inheritance to bequeath to me. I was put to work from early childhood in order to earn my living and lighten their burden of existence.

‘Thus living for several years, I became informed about this country or new world as it is called and I began to think about taking a trip and seeing a better future. I came to terms with my parents and they gathered almost their last resources and furnished my way over to this country.’ He adds that for a time he sent money back to his parents. He records some of the experiences mentioned above and then comes to his prison life.

‘Many times I think that my liberty is only in a graveyard so there is the end of my suffering.

‘In order to properly introduce myself I am giving you description of my physical make-up. Am six foot tall, weigh 180 lbs., light hair and complexion, gray-blue eyes, normal nose, mouth, and ears, and long face.

‘P. S. It is a joy for the man in my surroundings to receive a letter and hear a word of sympathy, far greater than that of a child at seeing sunrise in a beautiful midsummer morning. Nature has endowed me with freedom of my birth and I meant to keep it. My disposition is peaceful and my way is quiet. I rather suffer myself than to see another’s suffering. My belief is that every being ought to enjoy this life in eligible way, for it is so short.'

In his next letter he writes: ‘You have asked me what kind of life I like best? Undoubtedly it is farming as I was brought up to it and I guess it is bred in my bones for generations.’ Of books he says: ‘I have read no books until I came here. Since then I am reading anything I get. My favorite authors are Count Tolstoy and Dumas.'

Noting his mystical quality, his correspondent sent him Trine’s In Tune with the Infinite. But the prison chaplain refused to let him have it, explaining that they felt it best to give the men ‘only the simplest Christian doctrine!' One wonders why John was allowed Tolstoy.

At last his correspondent visited him and of this event he writes: ‘I feel as if some great and lovely event has passed in my life. The loneliness seems to be less irksome and life itself renders a different aspect altogether.’ He deplores his failure to express his appreciation of his visitor’s call and in quaint language protests: ‘It was a fault of my nervous embarrassment as it is my inborn tendency to remaining mute at a time when I need it most of the articulate speech. I remember reading somewhere that the learned people call timidity a barbaric rudiment.

‘Myself and the fern that you brought me are enjoying the blessing of good health though our environment could be much better for that purpose.'

In his next letter he records: ‘I am reading now Plato, Socrates, and Epictetus, and The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. That book is immense. If I could have one hundred part of the moral grandeur, will-power, and benevolence of Epictetus I would consider myself very fortunate. Of all characters I have read about he seems to me the greatest. Socrates I admire too, but his arguments are so artistically brought out by Plato that the man Socrates seems to me a myth. If I could afford, I would keep a copy of Epictetus’s Golden Sayings in my cell all the time.’

His imagination touches even his prison abode: ‘I wish I could have as much respect for my room as monk or nun has for his or her own cell. Truly I would consider my surroundings happy if I could think but for a moment I am in a cloister instead of prison. I wonder if the cloister inmates feel similar pangs of despair as the prisoners are often subjected to bear? I imagine that the quietness and tranquillity of a cloister life gives more courage and hope for an eternal life.

‘My unfortunate fern died in spite of my greatest assiduity of nursing him in order to keep in life. The reason of his death coming so soon was lack of sunshine. The sun never penetrates my cell in all year around. I am sorry for his death, being left alone, especially because life cannot flourish in the same atmosphere wherein I am consigned to live.'

Of his letters this peasant prisoner states: ‘I usually write a copy first and keep on revising until I am satisfied that my thoughts are expressed as clearly as I am able to convey my meaning in the English language.'

Again alluding to Marcus Aurelius he reflects: ‘I admire very much his precepts and advices, but I can’t help wondering whether he conscientiously practised what he preached, as during his reign the early Christians were persecuted and sacrificed in the arena for their virtuous and brotherly life that they led. His meditations cannot completely obliterate the stain on his character.’

Of the presence of an overseer when his correspondent called on another occasion he comments: ‘I regret that you failed to get the warden’s permission to speak to me in dialogue instead of trialogue. However friendly an overseer may be still one in my circumstances feels him “de trop."'

‘Please write me something of the current events foreign as well domestic. I only wish I could write as good a letter as you and give you a pleasure in a way of reading. In my surroundings here very seldom one can get a good idea to convey to the peoples outside that would be of any importance except longing and loneliness.

‘In the clipping that you send me about the war refugees (1915) I noticed among the people from other states that were flying from the German army were the people from the same town where I was from. God knows if my dear old mother was among them. I have been writing several letters and no answer came whatever.

‘I have n’t been making very much progress in my studies lately. I have been reading fiction only. To-day I am going to start reading Plutarch’s Lives.

‘I will have many things to be thankful for this coming Thanksgiving. My constant prayer to the good Lord is not for liberty, riches, or health, but to give me and those dear to me, a contented heart and mind so, whatever may happen to me, I should earnestly be able to say it is for the best.

‘Thanksgiving Day, 1915.
‘Yesterday evening I received your Thanksgiving card and my overseer informed me that a box of candy also came from you for me, which I am not allowed to have. I do not know what disposition was made of it. My overseer said he was going to send it back to you. Anyhow I am very thankful for your good intention.’
Of the evidence of spiritualism our untrained peasant writes thus discriminatingly! ‘In regards to what you write of proof and experience in psychic phenomena, I think I really meant experience not necessarily personal. If someone whom I knew thoroughly to be level-headed, one who has perfect control of the imagination and has no object to deceive one’s self or others, was to tell me that he or she personally had communications with anyone who has departed this life, the statement would tend to convince me that spiritual beings exist, though the belief would be certain knowledge if I should experience the phenomena personally.
‘I have to stop writing now, as I hear the overseer distributing our dinner. Our dinner to-day was better than usually, I suppose in honor of the all American holyday. We each received boiled “turkeys" and sourkraut. We call them “doggies.”We also got dessert to-day — five apples each. After all I could have enjoyed some of the candy, but I suppose luxuries are not good for my health. Oh well, I ‘ll just imagine that I have had some, and when I want some more I will imagine again.
‘In regards to the sweets that you sent me, which I was not allowed to have, I decided not to ask the warden for permission to receive same as I at first intended to do. The rules governing this institution are formulated by a Board of Inspectors, and one of the rules is, that no food of any description should be allowed to the inmates which the state does not furnish.
‘The warden as a favor could grant me permission no doubt to receive a box of candy, but I think it best not to ask for favor to satisfy my palate. The warden will dispose of the sweets by giving them to children who visit their fathers who are inmates here.
‘Not so very long ago I used to consider myself the centre of the universe, and was inclined to selfpity, consequently I was more miserable than I should have been. Now when my eyes are opened I can see and realize that self-pity is one of the worst traits in a human character, because it leads to misery the one who indulges in self-pity as well as to those who come in contact with him. I have read somewhere the following quotation, “A man is what he thinks.” And I found it to be true to life. When I pitied myself, and thought my life was a burden to me, it was so. Now when I think that all is well with me, I enjoy life from day to day, and my mind gets more tranquil. I am inclined to believe that there is a good deal of truth in the teaching of Christian Science. No doubt you know that Christian Science teaches that all is mind, nothing exists but in the mind. I am not convinced as to the nonexistence of matter, but in regards to the nonexistence of evil, I am inclined to believe it truth. If one thinks that there is no evil, one will never experience what does n’t exist to him.
‘I made the acquaintance here of a professing Christian Scientist. I converse with him quite frequently and during all the time I have knowed him, I have never noticed any change in his bearing toward those he comes in contact with. He is the most serene and the most tranquil man I have ever known. Nothing ever disturbs him. He seems to be perfectly in harmony with the surroundings and everybody around him when I consider that his circumstances in the outer world were such that he could gratify all his desires as far as money is concerned. He is a middle-aged man of wealth, a university graduate and has traveled extensively over the entire globe, and yet he seems to be the most happy man in prison, where he has to contend with coarse food and all other disagreeable restrictions. I have asked him what gives him that tranquillity of mind that he possesses and the personal magnetism that makes everybody like him, and he told me that by thinking well of everything and everybody, one gets in tune with infinite mind, consequently the immortal mind that all humans possess governs our actions, instead of the mortal part of us. He explained it to me more fully but it is beyond my present understanding. Still it must be a good philosophy of life, such reasoning.
‘My best wishes for you and all your dear ones for a Merry Christmas and a bright New Year.
’I wish you health, I wish you wealth, and many a merry day and a happy heart to play the part along the great highway.’

III

In the following year the tone of his letters is tragically changed, and we enter a new phase of his life in the reaction of the prison-cell on both mental and moral enthusiasm. ‘You write that you have read the printed account of my trial. If you still have it, will you please send it to me, as I have read nothing about my case and I have a very hazy recollection of the trial and the incidents leading up to it.
‘I thank you very much for your kind offer to help me in my studies, but I shall not avail myself of your offer, as I have very little ambition left in me, and my energy seems to be all I have got, the means to fight my awful circumstances and conditions. Besides I think I have intellectual indigestion. I shall read nothing but fiction for a long time to come and of course about current events whenever I get such reading-matter.
‘I am afraid that I am getting prison stupor, because I can remember that I used to derive pleasure as well as knowledge from my reading and studying, which lately do not interest me at all. I am inclined to think that society acts stupid as well as vicious to keep a human being in a place like this for a long term of years. Of course if the only reason for imprisonment was punishment, and no other results looked for, society would find justification in the cruel laws of “an eye for an eye,” but from what I have read on the subject, all the law officers pretend to send a man to prison for reformation and reclamation as well as punishment. It they were sincere in that, no man would be kept in prison more than two years, because all the good resolutions one makes in the first year in prison, but after a man has been here several years he gets discouraged and loses ambition to better himself, and gets too stupid to learn anything more than he had learned in the first couple of years. Consequently, when the man is finally released after five or more years spent in the surroundings so much different from what awaits him in the outer world, the good resolutions that he made in the first year of his imprisonment are not strong enough to overcome the habit of discouragement that he had gained in the succeeding years. So eventually he follows the line of least resistance, which is to him the life he had known previous to his incarceration and the probability is that he will become again a menace to society, until he is caught committing another crime for which he will be returned to prison again, and will finally graduate into an habitual criminal. Of course there is always an exception in everything but the majority of men I have met in here attribute their downfall to the first cruel and misdealt punishment. It would be laughable if it was n’t so sad to realize that private corporations can afford and do employ valuable efficiency experts to save them time and money in their different national affairs, but in all the forty-nine different governments in this country there are thousands of human beings who could be made more efficient to themselves, as well as to society at large, if those in authority would make a sincere effort to reclaim those who had “fallen by the wayside on the highway of life" instead of thrusting them on the junk pile as habitual criminals and hoboes.
‘I come in contact here with all sorts of peoples, some of them have been here a good many years, while others are in their first or second year, and invariably those who have n’t been here so long are the most intelligent as well as the most pleasant peoples to speak to. My friend of which I have spoken to you before, went home few months ago. He was with me one year. Perhaps if he had been locked up years instead of months his amiability and general disposition may not have been so good as I found it, though I think that he would have proven himself an exception to the rule.
‘I earnestly wish I could comply with your suggestion in regards to taking a course in agriculture. But I am sorry to be compelled to inform you that I have decided not to study any more, not from laziness, but, because no matter how hard I may try, I find myself unable to concentrate my mind on any unfamiliar subject. I have felt that way during the last eight months. As I have mentioned to you in one of my letters formerly, I think that I have acquired a state of mind that is known here as prison stupor. Some men are affected only temporarily while with others it remains for years. I trust I shall get over my indisposition very soon, and feel once more, as formerly, actual pleasure and delight in acquiring useful knowledge. At present any study would be a hard task for me and to no purpose. Therefore I refrain from taking a correspondence course, as I don’t like to start in and be obliged to drop out for incompetence. I am inclined to think that I am a better practical farmer than the majority of the graduates from the correspondence schools of agriculture. Of course, those who were raised on a farm as I was, and supplemented their knowledge of farming by theory as well as practice, will be apt to be more competent than I am at present. Otherwise the advantage is with me.
‘As you are aware, I am also a fullfledged coal-miner, and if the Dear God would permit me to gain my liberty again, I expect to make my Livelihood by mining or farming. I may later on when I feel that my effort would n’t be wasted, take a course in dairy-farming but at present I ‘ll just drift along with my humdrum occupation [several forms of prison labor, permitted him at different times as a reward for being an honor man] in the daytime and light reading evenings.
‘I notice, that you don’t write to me as often as formerly. I suppose you can’t spare the time. Yours is a full busy life. I wish I was n’t so rich in idle hours, yet such is life. One has overabundance while the other has n’t enough.’

IV

The ‘prison stupor’ yields to prison despair, and in John’s last two letters we mark the fading of hope, faith, and even aspiration. One letter gives the despairing wail of protest of this sensitive peasant, who longed to be, and perhaps might have been, a man of vision, reflection, imagination, and faith. But how much of the blame was his for the events that landed him in the hell that throttled the possibilities of making a sober, hardworking American?
‘ I expect — or hope — to reach you with this through the “subway.” I feel my heart so full and I want to confide to someone, someone that will understand as I seem to be misunderstood by one and all! It is most unfortunate as well as sad for me to make an admission that my condition here grows daily less bearable, and God only knows how long shall I be able to endure! I am so much weakened by long confinement and my vitality is at such a low ebb. In a word I cease to feel any longer any enthusiasm or charm that life incites in every living being. It is all due beyond any doubt to the deplorable conditions in which we are forced to exist. It is really an unbelievable occurrence to me that in this so much talked of land of freedom and in an era of the brotherhood of man there exists such human monsters that rejoice and gloat in satisfaction while inflicting unbearable sufferings upon unfortunate convicts, his fellow men after all and does not feel no moral shame or pangs of conscience of the dastardly acts he commits. We are fed upon decayed victuals no health authorities on the outside would sanction. It is not only that our bodies are run down but even our mental make-up, our minds and thoughts are poisoned by a long and continuous process of innutrition and there is no getting out of it. I read somewhere that it says there are no prisons for one’s thoughts or mind, but yet, I found out different! I found it out that your mind, your very thought can be poisoned or stupefied by a bad nourishment of your body by chronic innutrition and there you are in prison both mind and body and no getting away. Dear friend, do not think that I am a glutton, an Epicurean to harp all the while upon the food question, but no, I do not wish no luxuries or things that I can live without. All I want: decent wholesome food to keep my body in repair and protect from disease and wastage. We do not get that here. Last winter I became prostrated with the flu. I had a raging fever. I thought I was near end of my suffering, yet I survived. But my nerves went to pieces. Fever has shattered my nerves on account of lacking proper medical attention. If after the flu, had I got the right kind of nourishment I might have reached normality; but as it is I am left no better than the physical wreck. I can’t sleep at nights, I can’t eat that rotten food they give me here, it won’t go through my stomach. I got those nervous jumps and I lose controls upon my nerves at the slightest disturbance. I can’t stand no slurring and all kind of insulting remarks that I have been hearing from those insolent convicts here, those especially that is known in most all the prisons as “moral degenerates.” I wonder if you ‘ll understand what I mean? It is awfully sad to what depths of degradation such people have fallen. There are hundreds of them, who are abusing their own nature and who are priding themselfs in being the subject of alleviating other men’s passions. I hate them. I hate them, I shun them, and they in turn hate me and tell the officials here all kinds of lies about me, that I am no good — or rather bad man and dangerous because I tell them to keep away from me or I ‘ll hurt them if they persist in their immoral purpose. Officials like them from the lowest up and believe them and there is no chance whatever of getting a square deal. When a man is run down, when his nerves are worn out and he becomes easily irritable, the honorable warden and Dr. pronounce him dangerous man, not reformed anti therefore must rot in jail, whereas in better conditions such man could be straightened out, nursed back to life and to amiability of temper. However, they don’t look in that way. Their object is not to reform a man but to deform him for life — it costs nothing, deny him food, deny him medical attention, let him die by inches, they care none.
‘They may tell you all kind of lies. Please believe them not. They are professional liars, they have lifelong practice of it and they have oily tongues to tell it. They almost believe their own lies to be the truth. My dear friend, if you want to help me get out of this hell hole please try to be on the right side of them. It does not pay to buck up against them openly. They have to much political influence back of them.
‘My love to you.
’YOUR FRIEND.

‘If you receive this letter, please let me know in your next letter, by writing my name on the front page of your letter right under or above the date.’

‘It seems an eternity, but yet a recollection still lingers of the days of long ago, when my soul, too, was filled with joy on this splendid feast of Nativity. . . . Days, months, and years went by, cruel fate has shorn my soul naked of all the earthly joys and pleasures. It remains only a mocking remembrance of all my illusions, aspirations and shattered ideals that the youthful imagination ever so vividly used to reflect! All has irretrievably gone. . . .

‘The tides of time rushes us all onward, toward what goal no one can tell. Hope is but a faint illumination that gives zest to all the lifes hardships, and yet at times that faint glimmer of hope are so obscure that one seems to be utterly immersed in the dreadful sea of despondency! How splendid, how perfectly sublime it would be if after life’s harsh struggles there was a place of tranquillity and repose, the only well-earned reward after the severe blows that fate has dealt to those with whom Gods of destiny were seemingly displeased. Yes, there will perhaps be a reward, and rest in nothingness which is the only reward of the filial heartbreaking.

‘I was very much pleased to hear from you again dear friend, and God may recompense you for your generous Christmas remembrance — gift. Many, many thanks for both your very kind letter and a check.

‘Please accept my best and most sincere good wishes of the season to you, and to all those good peoples that were kind to think of me.’

So end the last letters. The sequel may be briefly recorded. A few months later the Lithuanian Society, in the state where John was confined, appealed to the Governor for his pardon. There were not many wise or eminent among them, and their appeal failed. Less than a year later some Americans, impressed by the merits of the case, determined on another appeal. One of the group sought a personal interview with John. He was directed to the prison doctor, who gave the last chapter of the making of this American.

The failure of the Lithuanian Society to secure his freedom proved a final body-blow to John. It seemed a declaration that he was doomed to spend all his life in prison. The prison stupor and depression which John himself recorded were followed by other elements of mental and emotional weakening. He became gloomy, then suspicious, and finally violent. Two weeks before the visitor came to tell John that freedom was hopefully near, he was sent to a state asylum for the criminally insane. There he will probably remain until he dies.

What shall be our comment? Can our country afford to tolerate this Americanizing process?

I lived for eight years in the most congested section of New York City, where I saw all varieties of human makings and unmakings. I heard the dreams and shared the hopes of many prospective Americans. I also saw the pitfalls set to entrap them, and the disillusionment of too many. Later, as public prosecutor, I met some of the unmade or badly made. More than once I met such as John.

We shall easily agree as to the iniquity of the enticers and plunderers. But we need stronger social and official appreciation of the wrong done to our new citizens, and the harm and cost to society of present conditions. Surely such conditions loom large in explaining the shocking volume of crime in our country, and the shortcomings in our social and political life.

And what shall we say of the court, the police captain, and the prison authorities who dealt with the John whom our tolerated plunderers had made? I submit that the judge who condemned John took into consideration but a small part of the case of the People of America against John Sobiesky, and nothing of the counter-case of John Sobiesky against the People of America. Does not the reader of John’s letters believe that there was a time when John might wisely have been released? We must have bettertrained judges in our criminal courts, and better-trained officials in the other contacts with the subtle problem of crime and its relations to social conditions and abnormal mentality. Is it not expensive, cruel, and stupid, in the light of the opinions of warden, supervisors, and doctors, and his own self-revelation, to support John for life when he might have supported himself and contributed to the support of this ‘new world’ to which he came with parental sacrifice and high resolve? Like many others, was not his more a case for social justice and for the doctor than for the judge with no social understanding and no knowledge of mental hygiene?