An Elite Faith

Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, author of Buck v. Bell / Library of Congress

In 1927, American high society was swept up in a frantic religious mania. Leading politicians, intellectuals, philanthropists, educators, reporters, and scientists prophesied that the nation would be consumed by fire and brimstone in the form of “unfit” babies unless it offered up a sacrifice. The state of Virginia went before the U.S. Supreme Court, that temple of modernity, with an offering. Legendary progressive Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes looked upon Carrie Buck, a 19-year-old imbecile with an imbecilic mother and imbecilic bastard infant, and embraced his role as Solomon.