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INTRODUCTION. I suppose after the manner of those who steal the titles of other authors an apology should be made to Victor Hugo
I suppose after the manner of those who steal the titles of other authors an apology should be made to Victor Hugo. The crime that he described was one purely political. It told the story of Louis Napoleon, who, having been elected President of the French Republic in 1848, following the model of his illustrious uncle, became Emperor of the French nation in 1852. Victor Hugo was one of the leaders against this movement and naturally became a persona non grata at Paris. With hundreds of others who had opposed this coup d'йtat he sought safety in Brussels. He arrived there on the 14th day of December, 1852, and began his "History of a Crime" on that very day. It was completed by May 5, 1853. He did not publish it for twenty-five years afterward.
It has been only twenty-one years since the crime about to be described was committed. Perhaps it would be the part of wisdom if its history, still unpublished, be withheld for another six years. The everthreatening thought of Anno Domini warns that it is not likely that I may still be on this planet after the lapse of six years. This fact should absolve me from any blame for a somewhat premature publication. The theft of his title is not likely to disturb the ashes of Victor Hugo in the Pantheon, to which they were committed by five hundred thousand of his fellow citizens in the summer of 1885, three months after his eighty-third birthday.
Presumably a similar lese majestй might be charged against the author of this story. Probably the truths which are told in the following pages, and a Government less violently set up than that of Napoleon III, will be a safeguard against expatriation. It is advisable and even desirable, while the memories of this crime are still fresh, to set down in simple language a recital thereof. There are many embarrassments in connection with writing a story of this kind which usually would deter or prevent the completion of the work. Many of the authors and participators in this crime have already joined the great majority and entered upon the Great Adventure. I am not unmindful of the excellent adage, nil de mortuis nisi bonum. I will not impute any base motives to those who are no longer here to defend themselves. It is far better to take the safe course. That is to assume that the crimes committed against the Food and Drugs Act were due to errors of judgment and not to any set purpose to destroy the salutary provisions of this law. While in the recital of these crimes, in spite of a purpose to the contrary, there may be found at times language which would indicate that the actors were not simply ignorant, it must be attributed to. the zeal for proper enforcement of the food law which leads to a recital of these facts, rather than to a purpose of. misjudging the motives of the actors themselves.
Twenty years have passed since these offenses against the law began. There are two reasons why I have waited so long before setting down in order this history. The principal one is that my time was all consumed with my efforts toward improving the nutrition, and consequently the health of the nation. The need of better nutrition is shown in an address opposing the repeal of the mixed flour law quoted further on. This was an indictment of the severest kind of the methods of up-bringing our youth. The deplorable condition of our young men was vividly shown in the Great War. Fully one-third of those called to the colors were found to be physically and mentally unfit to serve their country in its hour of need. Another third could only attend to camp and hospital tasks. Only one-third could go into. the trenches and serve their country on the field of battle.
It was a matter of supreme importance to endeavor in all honorable ways to remove the possibility of a similar stigma which might arise from any future crises of the republic. To instruct young persons to be parents, to teach them how to bring up their children after they are born, and to eliminate such a percentage of unfit are problems which require careful study. Having now reached the age of eighty-four, I am forcibly reminded that if this history of a crime is ever to be written it must be done now, without undue delay.
The second reason which has made, me hesitate is because of my high personal regard for those who are not shown as wholly devoted to the public service in the lapses of their conduct respecting the food and drugs legislation. It is always painful to say anything which could even be construed as derogatory to those who have been one's friends.