Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Link Between Alexander Hamilton, Two Presidential Assassins and Christian Science


      What or who is the link between those three disparate entities in the title of this article?  The answer is Allan McLane Hamilton.   A.M. Hamilton, was the grandson of Alexander Hamilton and the great-great grandson of Hendrick Van Rensselaer of Crailo.  Allan McLane Hamilton was the son of Alexander  Hamilton’s youngest son, Philip.  Philip Hamilton was only two years old when his father was shot in the duel with Aaron Burr.
       Allan McLane Hamilton was born on Oct. 6, 1848 in Brooklyn, New York.  In 1870, he graduated from Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons.  He would specialize in psychiatric    illnesses.  Psychiatrists, during the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, were also called  alienists.  Allan McLane Hamilton became one of America’s foremost forensic alienists of that time period.
       On July 2, 1881, President James A. Garfield was shot by Charles Julius Guiteau.  Dr. Hamilton was called in to examine the assassin. Hamilton believed “. . .Guiteau is only a shrewd scamp.” (NY Times 1/14/1917).  Hamilton felt that Guiteau was not insane, that “. . . he (Guiteau) felt his only successful defense was one of insanity. . . I had several occasions to see Guiteau in jail, when he talked quietly and sensibly.”  Guiteau was hanged on June 30, 1882.
       Nineteen years later, on September 6, 1901, President William McKinley was shot.  The assassin in this case was Leon F. Czolgosz.  After being summoned to examine Czolgosz,  Dr. Hamilton was not allowed to meet with the prisoner.  “. . . the people’s experts had evidently made up their minds that the prisoner was sane and that no  further examination was considered necessary. . ."                                              
        Even though he had not been allowed to examine Czolgosz, Dr. Hamilton attended the trial on September 23, 1901 and came to the conclusion that, “. . . the assassin (Czolgosz) was really a defective who had long been drifting into paranoia.  Hamilton’s final judgement of the Czolgosz trail was as follows,  “I really do not think in all my experience that I have ever seen such a travesty of justice. . .”
        Dr. Hamilton was called in to examine and give his professional opinion as to the sanity of Mary Baker Eddy, founder of the Christian Science Church.   “Early in 1907, George W.  Glover instituted legal action for an accounting of his mother’s (Mrs. Eddy) estate on the ground that she was mentally incompetent.” (NY Times, 10/11/1909).  Dr. Hamilton examined Mrs. Eddy in the summer of 1907 and found her to be     “. . . absolutely normal and possessed of a remarkably clear intellect. . .” (NY Times, 8/25/1907).
        Dr. Hamilton’s opinion of Mrs. Eddy is interesting when compared to his testimony about Christian Science in another trial.  In February 1901, while sworn under oath, declared that “Christian Science is an insane   delusion. . . any person believing that the Devine mind can cure disease. . . without material aid,  is to that extent insane.” (NY Times, 2/19/1901).

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