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HY 1110 Unit III Reflection Paper


A Letter from Boston

Place yourself (same age, family situation, and relative occupation) in early 1770s Boston. You are inspired to write a letter to someone (family, friend, co-worker, etc.) outside of the area about what you have seen or heard happening with regards to the growing rift with Britain. Below are questions you must address in your letter.

  • Your nation is on the brink of war. What has caused this?
  • In your current situation, how has the foreign government impacted you, and what you are seeing evolve as the American government?
  • Are you hoping to see a new nation emerge, or are you hoping for a reconciliation with Britain?

You are encouraged to be creative with the assignment, but make sure you are using facts from what you have read and learned to guide you. Your letter must be a minimum of one page, double spaced, and written in Times New Roman 12 point font.

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I’m trying to learn for my Law class and I’m stuck. Can you help?

Eugenics and Sterilization

The United States Supreme Court decision in the case of Buck vs. Bell forms one of the most important legal document in the history of sterilization. The case involved Carrie Buck who was a feeble-minded woman committed to a state mental institution. Her mental state condition has been present in her family for the past three generations. The case was presented to the Supreme Court after the proposed sterilization of Carrie Buck that had initially gone through the Virginia State Court system. Virginia law allowed for the sterilization of a mentally ill individual with the aim of promoting the health of the patient as well as the welfare of the society. The Supreme Court voted for Sterilization of Carrie Buck and any other American in a similar situation (Buck v. Bell. 274 U.S. 200, 2018). The Supreme Court’s decision led by Justice Olive Holmes stated that ‘three generations of imbeciles are enough.’ It ordered the sterilization of Carrie Buck to prevent her from giving birth to another mentally defective child.

The US Supreme Court decision bolstered the American eugenics movement as well as contributing to the establishment of the legal authority for sterilization of more Americans. Eugenic is a movement aimed at improving the gene composition of humans through the selection of the desired characteristics (Popenoe, 2009). One of the theories of criminology-related to eugenics is Lombroso’s biological theory of criminology that assumes that some humans are born criminals who are physiologically distinct from non-criminals.

The effect of the Supreme Court ruling could not be underestimated as it formed a landmark decision for the American eugenics movement. Even though the decision resulted in Carrie Buck becoming the first person to be sterilized under Virginia’s sterilization law, thousands of Virginians followed. Most of the practices were involuntary as some of the patients did not agree to them but the law required them to undergo the procedure. The procedure finally ended in the 1970s countrywide resulting in the repealing of the Virginia Sterilization Act in 1972. However, in 2012 the justification of the sterilization of the feeble-minded patients set by the Buck vs. Bell case had not been overturned.

The issue of eugenics and sterilization is a polarized issue considering that progressive thinkers in the United States who contributed to the consideration of proposals driving positive eugenics were overshadowed with policies regarded as negative eugenics that discouraged or prevented certain individuals from tainting the “race.” The shift in the beliefs supporting eugenic started in the mid-1930s and continued evolving after World War II where the original focus on negative eugenics of preventing people from transmitting defective genes began fading away (Reilly, 2015). It resulted in two new trends emerging where the first trend focused on physicians arguing that women sterilization who were intellectually incapacitated would result in freeing them from institutions as well as allowing them to live without fear of pregnancy. The second trend focused on substantial growth in the movement for the provision of all women with legal access to contraception. The occurrence of such different views says that the study of genetics may not necessarily be sufficient in justifying its use to make decisions such as the ones imposed on Carrie Buck. Besides, its use in the United States stopped at some point highlighting that its use is not certain in predicting the characteristics of the children from a mentally ill individual.


Buck v. Bell. 274 U.S. 200. (2018). Buck v. Bell, 274 US 200 – Supreme Court 1927. Retrieved from https://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?q=Buck+v.+…

Popenoe, P. (2009). The progress of eugenic sterilization.

Reilly, P. R. (2015). Eugenics and involuntary sterilization: 1907–2015. Annual review of genomics and human genetics, 16, 351-368.

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