|Solving the "Negro rape problem"|
Yet another advantage of circumcision
In the 1880s there were suggestions that African Americans should be forcibly circumcised as part of a campaign against venereal disease. It was asserted that they were irredeemably promiscuous and impossible to educate in the laws of hygiene. In the 1890s some white doctors went further, arguing that Negroes committing sexual assaults should be summarily castrated, while Dr P.C. Remondino thought it would be both more effective and more humane to pass a law requiring all Negro boys to be routinely circumcised, since the surgery was guaranteed to keep their innate lust within reasonable bounds.
1. Compulsory circumcision to control syphilis
“Enforced circumcision of the colored race”, 1889We call attention to this article in the present number of the Journal. It is contributed by an intelligent physician, Dr Vandavel, and is quite creditable for his first effort at writing for the press. The doctor makes a strong argument in favour of circumcision in his race as a prophylactic measure, and thinks that a long train of evils, beside syphilis, may thus be avoided. It is true, the rhetoric of the article might be improved, the subject more elegantly, perhaps, but not more forcefully put. He makes a plea, also, that the coloured people, being ignorant of the laws of hygiene, should be enlightened, while taken under a kind of sanitary protectorate. The paper was read at the annual convention of the Coloured Physicians’ Association. — Nigger doctors, as Fisher called them, at Houston, on 25th ult. 
Editorial, Daniel’s Texas Medical Journal, Vol. 5, July 1889, p. 28
Circumcision Enforced by Law
By J.M. Vandavel, MD, Waco
(Read at Convention, Loue State Medical Society, Houston, June 25, 1889)
While we agree in a measure with the statement that the world is governed too much by prohibitory or implied prohibitory acts, we must also agree in the fact that governments are organized, fostered and perpetuated for the general welfare of the constituency, individually and collectively.
It is the duty of the civic or municipal, state and national governments to look after the habits and customs of their citizens respectively, and direct in a legal way whenever it is apprehended, or discovered, that general prosperity is crippled, general health injured and the sanitary status are of such a character as to impede sanitary invironment [sic] and healthfulness; dwarf the civilian in physique and thought; degenerate robust muscularity and mental acumen, legislative action becomes s paramount as the quarantine to prevent yellow fever, small-pox, cholera Asiatica, and as absolutely necessary as the interstate commerce bill to prevent discrimination in freight rates and railroad travel; because these affect the general welfare.
It is a fact known to all and doubted by few, if any at all, that the rapid advancement of the most learned science during the past three decades has been almost phenomenal, and to speak of the various indices showing this progress is too laborious for the hour, too comprehensive for your servant to grapple with on this occasion.
Going back three thousand years, many years before the fathers of medicine were born, to the days of the Astrologer, we present you with a rite as old as the Bible: the taking of the “fore-skin” of each male child; and in Egypt the circumcision of females was also practiced.
We trust that each scientific mind will lay aside his orthodox teaching on our subject and view it primarily from a medical, or more specifically, as a sanitary measure or necessity. In all past ages of the world’s history, as well as the present, the Hebrew has stood as impregnable to the common scourges and devastation which have swept away the earth’s inhabitants that we have been force to ejaculate, “God’s peculiar people truly”. 
A lower mortality than any race now on the face of the earth (in proportion to number), and this of course means longer life on the average; freedom or comparative freedom from the diseases which prey upon the common herd of humanity, viz., tubercle, phthisis pulmonaris, adenitis, carcinoma, scrofula, rachitis and venereal cachexia and of all diseases constitutional in their terrible ravages which come in direct harmony with and in obeisance to that scriptural injunction which says, “the sins and iniquities shall visit the children unto the third and fourth generation”; and until the malignancy of these blood taints shall have been exhausted in destroying general health and happiness, and depopulating some of the most densely inhabited sections of the southern states.
It is a fact found in my own everyday work and in conversation, and by reading the scanty literature on this subject, that out of every five males suffering from venereal taint, four will have the long prepuce. Besides not adding anything to the looks of the organ, this elongated prepuce in the first places renders venereal disease much easier caught; and in the second place makes it decidedly much worse to treat.
This proposition being granted as true, the question of the enforcement of circumcision is the one most needed to be discussed. That circumcision should be enforced by law only obtains in so far as we can show that consumption, scrofula, glandular enlargements, rheumatism, heart trouble and eczema are sequelae in any manner of syphilis. 
The transmission of syphilis is one of the medical axioms: i.e., syphilis often pure and simple in the offspring — often syphilis in a modified form, for we see daily, syphilis transmitted and assuming the form of dermal eruptions, osseous dyscrasia, deformations, and in whatever way this taint manifests itself, it carries along with it deterioration of a physique which otherwise might have been an admirable specimen of God’s handiwork. If we can check the ravages of disease, cut off inherited diseases transmitted by marriage and illegitimate cohabitation, calm excited brain and vaso-motor nerve centres, soothe supra reflex nerve excitation, we will have, in a measure, cured in advance many diseases and imagined diseases, both of mind and body, originating in an elongated prepuce, bringing on onanism, early cohabitation, phimosis, paraphimosis, and syphilis and sequelae.
The good such a law would bring to the people of this country, especially the coloured people of the South land, where virtue is so slovenly and so loosely worn by our women, morality so little valued, and the marriage relationship so easily adulterated, or sullied, can be better appreciated by comparing the American races with the Sandwich Islanders. It is said that one hundred years ago there were (400,000) four hundred thousand inhabitants on these islands, healthy, prolific, and, in their peculiar way, prosperous; but since the importation and propagation of syphilis amongst that people, they have dwindled to (40,000) forty thousand, with a death rate equal to, if not exceeding, the birth rate; and as matter of fact it will be only a few decades when these people must become extinct, unless a check is made to the depopulating disease which is now threatening them, or unless the islands are peopled by a foreign element whose mode of living will be within the limits of a sanitary surveillance worthy of the name.
Beside a very heavy death rate, there is another factor working against the islanders, and that is sterility, which is common to a very large number, both male and female, owing primarily to the thorough work of this disease, which has been described as “riding a man through the world and then jumping on his ghost and riding it through eternity”.
It is but right, looking these facts sternly in the face, for the government to look after the welfare of the races, black and white, and especially our own race, because as yet the race is infantile in the correct mode of living, ignorant of sanitary laws, and often heedless when known, and blind yet as to the daily and inexorable laws of nature to which all humanity must conform in order to be healthy and happy; the importance of this the race has not yet been taught.
The Jew is well provided for. His dietary is on a higher and more wholesome basis than the most fastidious American can boast of, and he sees that his food is not only prepared well for the table, but that it is killed scientifically. They hold circumcision in high esteem only as an ordinance enjoined as a sanitary necessity – a health safeguard.
At the present rapidity by which the venereal taint is being propagated among the coloured people, even mere children being the worst sufferers, owing to fear and an attempt at secrecy, it will only be a matter of time when we will wish to call a halt; but it will be too late. 
Daniel’s Texas Medical Journal, Vol. 5, July 1889, pp. 7-11
Comment from KansasApropos of Dr Vandavel’s article in Daniel’s Texas Medical Journal, entitled, “Circumcision enforced by law”, we do not think the people of Kansas would submit to such an apparent infringement of their personal rights, even if they are all willing to have their meat and drink restricted by temperance and prohibitory amendments.
Some medical writers claim that the tonsils are not essential to mankind; other organs are likely to be attacked soon in a similar manner; the capillary adornment of many of our scientific heads is rapidly becoming a thing of the past, and we must call a halt in the near future, or we will answer to the melancholy Jacques’ description: “Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything”.
But, without adding constitutional amendment, it would be well if about half our male population were in the condition of the Shechemites when they were attacked by Simeon and Levy (Genesis xxxiv, 24 and 25).  False modesty too often manifests itself in a neglect of the toilet of the prepuce, and we heartily agree with Dr Vandavel that the elongated foreskin predisposes to venereal disease and adds not a whit to the beauty or utility of the organ.
Kansas Medical Journal, Vol. 1, 1889, p. 208
2. Compulsory circumcision to solve “the Negro rape problem”In the 1880s, compulsory circumcision was urged as means of helping the “coloured race” overcome its infantile ignorance of the laws of hygiene and protect it from syphilis and many other diseases. In the 1890s, however, the emphasis shifted: circumcision was now to be enforced as a means of curtailing and controlling Black sexuality and protecting white women from assault by sex-crazed niggers. The charge was led by long-time circumcision crusader, Dr Peter Charles Remondino.
Dr Remondino’s surgical option, 1894The study of anthropological science in its broadest sense and in its applicability, or as a basis for preventing ill-conditions, is something that is very much neglected. The intimate relations – suggestive, reflex and retroactive – that exist between the body and the mind are things not sufficiently taken into account. The mind is not so much to be praised or always held to be as culpable as many affect to believe. Zimmerman, the eminent Hanoverian physician, relates in his works the case of a wonderfully bright German boy, whose quick and penetrating intellect was the pride of his village, who lost all his great mental gifts and soon relapsed into the stupidity of the average village lad of his surroundings on the removal of a tapeworm, which had for years inhabited his intestinal canal.
An overflowing bladder as well as an irritating and ulster-proportioned and over-generously sebaceoused and generally too robust prepuce, will often cause the simulation of the evidences of an over-exuberant and impatient virility, something which should have for its only prompters over-filled or distended seminal vesicles.
From our observations and experience in such cases, we feel fully warranted in suggesting the wholesale circumcision of the Negro race as an efficient remedy in preventing the predisposition to discriminate raping so inherent in that race. We have seen this act as a valuable preventive measure in cases where an inordinate and unreasoning as well as morbid carnal desire threatened physical shipwreck; if in such cases the morbid appetite has been removed or at least brought within manageable and natural bounds, we cannot see why it should not – at least in a certain beneficial degree – also affect the moral stamina of a race proverbial for the leathery consistency, inordinate redundancy, generous sebaceousness and general mental suggestiveness and hypnotizing influence of an unnecessary and rape, murder and lynching breeding prepuce.
It would certainly be more humane for a State legislature to pass an act legalizing and enforcing circumcision as a preventive measure, just as it would enforce either vaccination or quarantine regulations, than to enact laws to castrate or eunuchize the accused after his infraction of the laws. The many burnings, hangings, shootings and stonings that have of late taken place should suggest the search of the physical cause of this law-breaking and of some preventive measures; the radical means adopted by mobs certainly cure the burned, hung, shot or stoned to death, but they seem in no wise to act as preventative in others. Circumcision, as a preventive measure, certainly stands at the head of all possible suggested measures.
Were criminal anthropology a more advanced or practised science we should have had a cast of the prepuces of Col. Valentine Baker as well as that of the Rev. Mr Bell. When Clothaire subdued a Saxon rebellion he caused all the Saxon prisoners who exceeded in height the length of his good double-handed sword to be immediately decapitated. If on examination the prepuces of these two moral anarchists should have shown any proportionate relationship to those sported by the natives of Senegambia, they should then at once have been judicially excised – a procedure which would have effectually prevented any moral relapse and which, in the end, would only have gained for them a moral, mental and physical betterment. Although the male Jews are much given to unholy and unedifying carnal pursuits, and in that field make records only equalled by the great Nimrod as a hunter, still, we never hear of a Jewish rapist.
It would be well for the legislative Solons of our border and our Southern States to seriously investigate this question. in all of its bearings. With the discovery of cocaine and idioform gauze, catgut sutures and of the artistic and serviceable dressings that can be made from a combination of aseptic gauze and of dextrine in alcoholic solution, circumcision can no longer be termed either barbarous, dangerous, annoying, painful, nor labour or occupation interfering; the operation is simple, quickly done, and with a permanent dressing that will need no renewing, the circumcised may go to work in the field, store, at the desk or in the court or pulpit – the sutures and healing taking care of themselves – the patient himself often being able to remove the dressing on the sixth or seventh day and find perfect recovery. If an infant, the wound should be simply dusted with a powder composed of two thirds boracic acid and one third aristol, care being taken to keep the parts perfectly dry by dusting with the above several times daily and avoiding the contact of any cloth and not bathing the parts until complete union and cicatrization have taken place.
In the South negro male children are much more subject to nervous disorders than girls. Tetanus and ailments of a kindred nature, convulsions, strabismus and like disorders which we have been induced by preputial irritation are not uncommon affections with the little negro males. Tetanus is especially a very sudden, severe and fatal disease with our little African cousins, and the relations that preputial adhesions and such like irritations bear as etiological factors have not as yet been sufficiently investigated, although their position as such factors are obvious. An uncontrollable degree of zealous piety and fervour at the shrine of Venus Porcina as a racial trait should most certainly lead us to look for its cause in the same lines wherein we should look for a like condition in the average female. To simply look upon it as a racial immoral trait or as a furor Africanus only to be cured by the stake and the faggot or the contents of half a dozen Winchester magazines can hardly be considered sanity or being abreast of fin de siecle nineteenth century scientific and humane advancement. Such remedies are rather more in keeping with thought and actions that prevailed before the revival of medicine, when the unfortunate demented were chained like demoniacs in out-of-the-way dungeons or chased about the streets like made dogs.
There are anatomical or pathological reasons for this condition – which is akin to epilepsy – that should remove it from being investigated from the single plane of the moralist, and the subject I assuming such proportions that it should be worthy of an investigation at the hands of a scientific and competent commission. The sociologist will naturally ask, “Was the condition existing in ante-bellum days? Has it a since-the-war foundation? What sociological changes have the coloured raced undergone since the war that would develop such a trait, or has unconfined and riotous liberty reawakened traits that prevailed in the race before their transportation from the wilds of Africa? Have they lost the affinity that should attract them to the female of their own race, or what are the causes that drive them to seek the females of the white race?” The purely medical man will look for pathological causes or in differing physiological conditions. The purely sentimental moralist has no legitimate position in such an inquiry any more than a bull in a china shop.
We here see the constant need of the existence in our nation of a body analogous to the French Academy. Such a body composed of tried and seasoned scientists – not mere dilettantes who simply join this or that scientifically presumed body to give them the airs of men of science – from literature, the arts, and from the three sister sciences, would investigate such a subject from some tangible base. Were such a body to exist, their deliberations and findings would, on being transmitted or reported to Congress, receive the attention of that body, and some other solution for the subject be found for their remedy besides kerosene and tar saturated faggots or hangings and bullet riddling . … [etc etc etc]
P.C. Remondino MD, "Questions of the day: Negro rapes and their social problems", National Popular Review, Vol. 4, January 1894, p. 3-6
The Maryland Medical Journal agreesA great deal has been said and written upon the question of rape by the Negro in the south.
The brutal and uncontrollable passion of the Negro has been traced to a variety of causes, the chief of which has been referred to a perversion of his sexual instincts and ungoverned sexual passion. The treatment for this peculiar crime has been, so far, extremely radical. The individual has, with rare exceptions, paid for his lust by accepting violent forms of death. Lynching and other forms of torture have shown no tendency to check the criminal practices of this unfortunate class.
Among the remedies proposed, legal castration has very warm advocates. It is quite doubtful whether this method could be made to reach any large number of cases, nor is it probable that a law could be enforced with any degree of justice or humanity that would be practicable and efficient.
A recent suggestion has been made by Dr P.C. Remondino, in the National Popular Review (January 1894), which throws some light on this question, and is, at least, worthy of consideration. Dr Remondino is a well known student and writer on the subject of circumcision. He has made researches into the origin and practices of this religious rite by the Jewish and other races, and has studied its influences from a physical, moral and religious standpoint. He has observed that whilst male Jews are noted for their strong sexual proclivities, such a character as a Jewish rapist is never heard of. He attributes this fact to the practice of circumcision, and he now suggests that the legal enforcement of circumcision among the Negro race would effectually remedy the predisposition to aping inherent in this race.
He says: “We have seen this act as a valuable preventive measure in cases where an inordinate and unreasoning as well as morbid carnal desire threatened physical shipwreck; if in such cases the morbid appetite has been removed or at least brought within manageable and natural bounds, we cannot see why it should not – at least in a certain beneficial degree – also affect the moral stamina of a race proverbial for the leathery consistency, inordinate redundancy, generous sebaceousness and general mental suggestiveness and hypnotizing influence of an unnecessary and rape, murder and lynching breeding prepuce.
“It would certainly be more humane for a State legislature to pass an act legalizing and enforcing circumcision as a preventive measure, just as it would enforce either vaccination or quarantine regulations, than to enact laws to castrate or eunuchize the accused after his infraction of the laws.”
The male Negro child, he claims, is subject to many nervous disorders from slight irritation. This characteristic follows him through life. An enlarged prepuce is assigned as the most frequent cause of irritation, and its removal, he believes, will lead to the stopping of sexual crimes and to the moral improvement of the race.
There is much good sense in this suggestion, as there is much good sense in the practice of circumcision among neurotic male children of the white race. The general adoption of circumcision as a legal measure for any class would, no doubt, meet with violent opposition. It seems practicable, however, to secure much success in this direction from the co-operation of the medical profession. If circumcision was more frequently advised and practised as a hygienic and preventive measure in selected cases, we feel assured much good would result to society from such a measure. Such suggestions are entitled to careful reflection and consideration.
“Circumcision for the correction of sexual crimes among the Negro race”, Maryland Medical Journal, Vol. 30, February 1894, pp. 345-6
So does the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal
(Now the New England Journal of Medicine)The solution to the yearly more serious problem of Negro rape in the south is a most difficult but important task. Lynching, with its attendant tortures, has proved as useless as it is atrocious.
In the November number of the Virginia Medical Monthly, Dr Lydston strongly advised legal castration as a remedy; and he is supported in a more recent issue of the Texas Medical Journal, by Dr Daniel. The quieting effect of this treatment upon each criminal would, of course, be efficient for that one man, but it is doubtful how far it would carry a deterrent warning to other Negroes in the blinding heat of lust.
Dr P.C. Remondino, in the January number of the National Popular Review, urges the adoption, not of expiatory laws, but of preventive legislation. It is not rational, he claims, to look upon the unbridled licentiousness of the Negro solely as a racial trait. The Negro child, especially the male, is subject to many nervous disorders from slight irritation, and this characteristic he carried with him to adult life. Accordingly, Dr Remondino sees in the removal of “an irritating and ulster-proportioned prepuce” the efficient and gentle means of stopping the sexual crimes and improving the moral system of the Negro race. He says:
“Although the male Jews are much given to unholy and unedifying carnal pursuits, and in that field make records only equalled by the great Nimrod as a hunter, still, we never hear of a Jewish rapist.
“From our observations and experience in such cases, we feel fully warranted in suggesting the wholesale circumcision of the Negro race as an efficient remedy in preventing the predisposition to discriminate raping so inherent in that race. We have seen this act as a valuable preventive measure in cases where an inordinate and unreasoning as well as morbid carnal desire threatened physical shipwreck; if in such cases the morbid appetite has been removed or at least brought within manageable and natural bounds, we cannot see why it should not – at least in a certain beneficial degree – also affect the moral stamina of a race proverbial for the leathery consistency, inordinate redundancy, generous sebaceousness and general mental suggestiveness and hypnotizing influence of an unnecessary and rape, murder and lynching breeding prepuce.
“It would certainly be more humane for a State legislature to pass an act legalizing and enforcing circumcision as a preventive measure, just as it would enforce either vaccination or quarantine regulations, than to enact laws to castrate or eunuchize the accused after his infraction of the laws.”
“The solution of the Negro rape problem”, Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, Vol. 130, February 1894, pp. 126-7
Circumcision and castration: The contribution of Dr G. Frank Lydston“Sexual crimes among the southern Negroes – Scientifically considered”
Virginia Medical Monthly, May 1893 (extracts)
Dear Dr Lydston, – After reading your paper on “Sexual Perversion” I am induced to ask you to give me … some scientific explanation of the sexual perversion in the Negro of the present day.
Before the late War between the States, rape by a Negro of a white woman was almost unknown; now the newspapers tell us how common it is. The crime of a Negro assaulting a white woman seems to be growing in frequency. …
It is not the legal, moral or political aspect of this perverted sexuality in the Negro upon which I ask your opinion. The subject has been discussed in these ways, and without any good. I want you … to investigate it as a scientific physician – one who has devoted much time to this and kindred matters. I do not know, in all this land, one so capable of making the examination complete, and I sincerely hope the investigation may result in some benefit to the negro race. …
Sincerely your friend
"I'm glad you asked me that, Dorothy ... "
[In a lengthy and verbose reply, Lydston first enumerated seven “special causes” which accounted “for the frequency with which the crime of rape is perpetrated by the Negro in this country.”]
1. Hereditary influences descending from the uncivilized ancestors of our Negroes. When we take into consideration the ancestry of the American Negro, and reflect upon the peculiar sexual relations sustained by that ancestry, it is by no means surprising that ancestral traits crop out occasionally. Marriage among certain Negro tribes is as close a simulation to what is designated rape in civilized communities as could be well imagined. …
2. A disproportionate development of the animal propensities associated with a relatively low differentiation of type. … [Thanks to white blood and association with the white race] the mulatto may be much less liable to sexual crimes than his Negro ancestor.
3. A relatively defective development of what may be termed the centers of psychological inhibition. This defect is characteristic of all races of a low grade of civilization and a relatively low grade of intellectual development. …
4. Physical degeneracy involving chiefly the higher and more recently acquired attributes, with a distinct tendency to reversion to type, which reversion is especially manifest in the direction of sexual proclivities. …
5. The removal of certain inhibitions placed upon the Negro by the conditions which slavery imposed upon him; these were removed by liberation. … It should be by no means surprising that the Negro, when thrown upon his own responsibility, with a complete removal of all the inhibitory influences of his previous bondage, should be unable to adapt himself to his new environment. This is by no means apologetic for the criminal acts of the Negro, but is simply an argument worthy of the consideration of those sentimental idiots who believe that the Negro question is one entirely of skin and political complexion. Such sentimentalists will one day awaken to a realization of the fact that the Negro question is one of the most serious with which we are confronted at the present time, and one which may be settled by the physical degeneracy and death of the Negro race, but which can only be settled in that way. It certainly cannot be settled by political manipulations of any kind, or by sentimental arguments.
6. An inherent unadaptability to his environment both from a moral and legal standpoint, the result of his unadaptability being an imperfect or perverted conception of his relations to his environment. …
7. An incapacity of appreciation of the dire results to himself of sexual crimes. This incapacity is quite characteristic of individuals of a low type of organization, and such little sense of personal responsibility as a large proportion of the Negro race possess is readily inhibited by excitement of the lower brain centers, such as may be produced by anger, alcohol or the furor sexualis. … When all inhibitions of a high order have been removed by sexual excitement, I fail to see any difference from a physical point of standpoint between the sexual furor of the Negro and that which prevails among the lower animals in certain instances and at certain periods. … The furor sexualis in the Negro resembles similar attacks in the bull and elephant, and the running amuck of the Malay race.
[What to do?]
[Turning to the question of the remedy for these problems, Lydston asserted that he was not going to discuss the question “from the standpoint of political buncomb [?bunkum], maudlin sentimentality and intentional bias of certain blatherskite newspapers in the North”, but was going to be “entirely utilitarian”. While he felt that Judge Lynch had “accomplished great good in many isolated instances”, Lydston was not in favour of capital punishment because it was manifestly not a deterrent. What he favoured was something lingering that would present a constant spectacle of fear to others – namely, both castration and circumcision of the offender.]
I object to any method of punishment which is followed by forgetfulness on the part of surviving prospective criminals. With them, current events soon obliterate all recollections of the criminal, his crime, and its punishment.
To my mind there is only one logical method of dealing with capital crimes and criminals of the habitual class – namely, castration. This method of punishment leaves behind it evidence which will prove a wholesome warning to criminals of like propensities. It prevents the criminal from perpetuating his kind. The murderer is likely to lose much of his savageness; violator loses not only the desire, but the capacity for a repetition of his crime, if the operation be supplemented by penile mutilation according to the Oriental method.
A few emasculated Negroes scattered around through the thickly-settled Negro communities of the South would really prove the conservation of energy, as far as the repression of sex crimes was concerned. Executed, they would be forgotten; castrated and free, they would be a constant warning and ever-present admonition to others of their race.
“Sexual crimes among the southern Negroes – Scientifically considered – An open correspondence between Hunter McGuire MD, LLD of Richmond, Va, and G. Frank Lydston, MD, of Chicago, Ill”, Virginia Medical Monthly, Vol. XX (2), May 1893, pp. 105-125
G. Frank Lydston
Lydston was Professor of Genito-Urinary Surgery and Syphilology at the State University of Illinois. He was the author of many books and articles on sexual pathology and a prominent advocate of both castration of Negroes for sexual offences and of surgical eugenics, as well as universal circumcision of boys as a deterrent against masturbation and a prophylactic against other diseases. This meant sterilization of criminals and other forms of the unfit as a means of controlling various “social diseases”. In his book Diseases of Society (1905) he wrote: “not only crime, but all of the diseases of society [are] … more or less remediable by castration or resection of the vasa differentia and the Falloppian tubes”. (“Sex mutilations in social therapeutics”, New York Medical Journal, Vol. XCV (14), 6 April 1912, pp. 677-85.)
For further details, see Philip Reilly, The surgical solution: A history of involuntary sterilization in the United States (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991), pp. 37-8. Lydston was also a keen supporter of Cesar Lombroso’s theories of hereditary criminality and of his belief that character could be determined by skull measurements, the so-called science of craniometry. See G. Frank Lydston, “Studies of criminal crania”, in Addresses and Essays, 2nd edn (Louisville, Ky: Renz and Henry, 1892), pp. 65-92. He was frequently cited as an authority by other circumcision advocates, such as Abraham Wolbarst, particularly in his “Universal circumcision as a sanitary measure”, Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol. 62, 1914, p. 95
JAMA enters the debate:
Circumcision and prophylaxis of syphilisThe Negro springs from the southern race, and as such his sexual appetite is strong; all of his environments stimulate this appetite, and as a general rule his emotional type of religion certainly does not decrease it. Both Quillian  and Murrell  state that they have never examined a Negro girl over 16 years of age who was a virgin, and the leading Negro physicians of Washington admit that virginity is very rare among the poorer members of their race. …
[What to do?]
The prophylaxis of syphilis in the Nero race is especially difficult, for it is impossible to persuade the poor variety of Negro that sexual gratification is wrong, even when he is in the actively infectious stage. It is probable that sex hygiene lectures will not have the slightest effect on this type, especially when one considers the risks that many of our own medical students run. As regards personal prophylaxis, all male babies should be circumcised, both for the purpose of avoiding local irritation which will increase the sexual appetite and for preventing infection.
It is questionable whether adult Negroes should not be taught the use of prophylactic packages, which appear to have worked much good in certain quarters.
H.H. Hazen, “Syphilis in the American Negro”, Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol. LXIII (6), 8 August 1914, pp. 463-468
Racist stereotyping lives onThe same racist assumptions about Negro promiscuity, licentiousness and ignorance were apparent in Eugene Hand’s promotion of circumcision as a preventive of venereal disease in 1949. It is easy to see the same white fear and jealousy of Black sexuality, and the same determination to limit and suppress it, in contemporary suggestions that African blacks should be circumcised to “protect them” from HIV-AIDS.
As Dr Eugene Hand wrote:
Through the ages, Jews have universally been circumcised on the eighth day after birth. This procedure as given them protection against venereal disease even when they have been exposed. Though they may be promiscuous in their own race, Jews certainly are less promiscuous than Negroes. When infected they tend to seek medical advice early. Thus venereal disease has not been introduced into the Jewish race generation after generation. Instead the rate has remained the same or decreased, so that the chance of Jews’ being infected has decreased.
Circumcision is not common among Negroes. When done it often is later in life and frequently is due to recurrent venereal disease. The sex education of most Negroes is meager. They tend to accept venereal disease with less fear or social taboo than do most Jews and gentiles. Many Negroes are promiscuous. In Negroes there is little circumcision, little knowledge or fear of venereal disease and promiscuity in almost a hornet’s nest of infection. Thus the venereal rate in Negroes has remained high.
Eugene Hand, “Circumcision and venereal disease”, Archives of Dermatology and Syphilology, Vol. 60, 1949, pp. 345-6
FURTHER INFORMATIONPeter Charles Remondino
AIDS and circumcision
Robert Darby, “Where doctors differ: The debate on circumcision as a protection against syphilis, 1855-1914”, Social History of Medicine, Vol. 16, Spring 2003
Laura M. Bogart and Sheryl Thorburn, “Are HIV/AIDS Conspiracy Beliefs a Barrier to HIV Prevention Among African Americans?”, Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, Vol. 38, No. 2, February 2005, pp. 213-18
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NOTES and REFERENCES1. The journal was edited by Dr. F.E. Daniel (d. 1914), a fanatical crusader for surgical solutions to both medical and social problems. He particularly advocated the castration of “insane criminals and sex perverts”, and supported a Texas bill providing that persons found guilty of rape, attempted rape or incest should be castrated – a measure that was passed by the House, but rejected by the Senate in 1907. He also lent his weight to the widespread movement to introduce sterilization of the insane and otherwise “unfit” on eugenic grounds. In 1894 he gave his warm support to Dr Pilcher, the superintendent of the Asylum for Idiots and Feebleminded Youths at Winfield, Kansas, when he revealed that he had castrated 44 boys and 14 girls for persistent masturbation. Daniel’s editorial praised the salubrious effects of castration and asserted that “these operations are occurring constantly”. Details from Philip Reilly, The surgical solution: A history of involuntary sterilization in the United States (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991), pp. 37-8, 29. See also Ronald Hamowy, “Medicine and the crimination of sin: ‘Self-abuse’ in 19th century America”, Journal of Libertarian Studies, Vol. 1, 1977, pp. 229-270, and Robert Darby, “Circumcision as a preventive of masturbation: A review of the historiography”, Journal of Social History, Vol. 36, Spring 2003.
2. On the medical construction of the ancient Jewish prophets as forward-looking sanitarians, see Leonard Glick, Marked in your flesh: Circumcision from Ancient Judea to modern America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005)
3. An assumption common among medical researchers with a cause, and underlying the position of many circumcision advocates today: that if they can show that a procedure, no matter how costly, risky or mutilating, has or may have some prophylactic effects against a feared disease, it is perfectly acceptable to enforce it on children or other ignorant persons without any requirement of informed consent, and without having to offer equally effective, but non-injurious, alternatives. The case of circumcision as a protection against AIDS comes to mind.
4. The sort of doomsaying alarmism typical of medical scaremongers: the situation is so critical that unless the world quickly adopts my own patent solution to the problem, we face certain ruin. A line popular among old style quacks, who were fond of painting lurid scenarios of the disasters that would inevitably befall unless people bought their liniment or paid them for certain intimate surgical procedures.
5. In this well known Bible story, the Hebrews agreed to let the Hivite men marry some of their women on condition that they submitted to circumcision. While they were recovering from their wounds, and thus helpless, Hebrew warriors attacked and massacred them all (Genesis xxxiv, 24 and 25).
6. Quillian, Med. Era. St Louis, xx, 1911, p. 416; Am. Jour. Dermat. and Genito-Urin., x, 1906, p. 277
7. Thomas W. Murrell, “Syphilis and the American Negro: A medico-sociological study”, JAMA, Vol. LIV (11), 12 March 1910, pp. 846-49. This article drew heavily on, though did not cite, Lydston’s comments in the article, “Sexual crimes among the southern Negroes”, Virginia Medical Monthly, May 1893.