UMKC School of Law

Any Mother Might Be the Mother of Richard Loeb or
Nathan Leopold

Kill them. Will that prevent other senseless boys or other vicious men or vicious women from killing? No!

It will simply call upon every weak minded person to as they have done. I know how easy it is to talk about mothers when you want to do something cruel. But I am thinking of the mothers, too. I know that any mother might be the mother of a little Bobby Franks, who left his home and went to his school, and who never came back. I know that any mother might be the mother of Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold, just the same. The trouble is this, that if she is the mother of a Nathan Leopold or of a Richard Loeb, she has to ask herself the question,

"How came my children to be what they are? From what ancestry did they get this strain? How far removed was the poison that destroyed their lives? Was I the bearer of the seed that brings them to death?"

Any mother might be the mother of any of them. But these two are the victims. I remember a little poem that gives the soliloquy of a boy about to be hanged, a soliloquy such as these boys might make: The night my father got me His mind was not on me; He did not plague his fancy To muse if I should be The son you see.

The day my mother bore me She was a fool and glad, For all the pain I cost her, That she had borne the lad That borne she had.

My father and my mother Out of the light they lie; The warrant would not find them, And here, ‘tis only I Shall hang so high.

O let not man remember The soul that God forgot, But fetch the county sheriff And noose me in a knot, And I will rot.

And so the game is ended, That should not have begun. My father and my mother They had a likely son, And I have none.

No one knows what will be the fate of the child he gets or the child she bears; the fate of the child is the last thing they consider. This weary old world goes on, begetting, with birth and with living and with death; and all of it is blind from the beginning to the end. I do not know what it was that made these boys do this mad act, but I do know there is a reason for it. I know they did not beget themselves. I know that any one of an infinite number of causes reaching back to the beginning might be working out in these boys' minds, whom you are asked to hang in malice and in hatred and injustice, because someone in the past has sinned against them.