"The prepuce might have read the hand-writing on the wall"

The extraordinary thoughts and influence of Dr P C Remondino

Dr P C Remondino

Peter Remondino was a San Diego doctor who specialised in respiratory ailments. This extraordinary 360-page paen to circumcision, written almost entirely out of his own fancies, was published in 1900. The first coloured passage is still commonly heard today in a simplified form. ("We used to need it when we ran naked through the brambles, but now we wear clothes we don't need it any more.")  Those who think Remondino has anything to offer us today should consider the racism of the second coloured passage or this extract from an article in a popular magazine.







RICORD has well termed this appendage to civilized man "a useless bit of flesh." Times were, however, when -- man living in a wild state, and when in imitation of some of our near relatives with tails and hairy bodies; when he still found locomotion on all-fours handier than on his two feet; when in pursuit of either the juicy grasshopper or other small game, or of the female of his own species to gratify his lust, or in the frantic rush to escape the clutches, fangs, or claws of a pursuing enemy, he was obliged to fly and leap over thorny briars and bramble-bushes or hornets' nests, or plunge through swamps alive with blood-sucking insects and leeches -- Ricord's definition would certainly have been inapplicable. In those days, but for the protecting double fold of the preputial envelope that protected it from the thorns and cutting grasses, the coarse bark of trees, or the stings and bites of insects, the glans penis of primitive man would have often looked like the head of the proverbially duel-disfigured German university student, or the Bacchus-worshiping nose of a jolly British Boniface [innkeeper]. So that in those days, unless primitive man was intended to have an organ that resembled a battle-scarred Roman legionary, a prepuce was an absolute necessity.

With improvement in man's condition and his gradual evolution into a higher sphere, the assumption of the erect posture, and the great stride in civilization that orginated the invention of the manufacture of the perineal band [thong between the legs], which not only protected the glans in its thorny passage through life, but also acted like a pro­tecting ægis [shield] to the scrotum and its contents, the pre­puce became a superfluity; not only a superfluity, but, now that its natural office had been replaced by the peri­neal cloth, it actually began to be a nuisance, as its former free contact with the air had retained it in a state of vigorous and disease-resisting health which was now fast departing. As Montesquieu observes, in the causes that led to the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, those seasons of trials, tribulations, and struggle for existence are those of health and progress and healthy life, and the periods of luxury and idleness are those of degeneracy and decay. So with the prepuce, the luxury and idleness, voluptuousness and consequent feasting incident to its being supplanted in its original functions by the perineal cloth, which left it thenceforth unemployed, led it in the pathway of disease and death. This first innovation in civilization was to the prepuce the beginning of its decay and fall. Like Belshazzar in his great banquet-hall in ancient Babylon, the prepuce might have read the hand-writing on the wall, "Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin" [interpreted as "Thou art weighed in the balance and found wanting"] and foreseen the gory end that awaited it Like to other human affairs, however, even in his fallen estate a kind word can be said for the pre­puce. Puzey, of Liverpool, has found it of extreme value, and even unequaled by any other part of the body, for furnishing skin-grafts,81 these grafts showing a vitality that is simply phenomenal, considering the laxity of its tissues and its seemingly adipose character. There is no doubt, however, that for skin-transplanting there is nothing superior to the plants offered by the prepuce of a boy, and where any large surface is to be covered this should undoubtedly be chosen, as offering the greatest and quickest success and the least chances of failure. This is really the only disadvan­tage that can be charged against circumcision, as in a strictly circumcised community they would be debarred from this great advantage. An uncirciimcised individ­ual could be procured, however, to supply the deficiency. It is related that in the latter part of 1890, a Knight Templar, iu Cincinnati, required a great supply of grafts or skin-plants to cover a largely-denuded surface, and that the whole of his Commandery chivalrously and generously supplied the needed skin-plants in a body. A few healthy prepuces would have been more effica­cious. In advising the use of the prepuce for these purposes it must not be overlooked that in case of a white man it would not do to use skin of any other color besides his own. We have no data to base any assertion as to the relative action of skin-grafts taken from Mongolians or Indians, but we have very reliable data in relation to the proliferating action of those of the negro,82 which induces a growth of epidermis of its own kind; so that preputial grafts from the negro, combining the extra vitality and proliferation of the preputial tissue with the strong animal vitality of the negro, if applied to a white man, might not produce the most desirable cosmetic effects, especially if on one side of the countenance.

But, taken as a whole, when considered in its relation to onanism [masturbation], nocturnal enuresis [bedwetting], preputial calculus [papillae coronis?], syphilis, cancer, and a lot of nervous and other ailments, or induced abnormal physical conditions, we can really conclude that the days of the prepuce are past and gone, that it has outlived its usefulness, and that those whom a. religious or civil ordinance or custom happily makes them rid of it are people to be greatly envied. As Sancho Panza remarked, "God bless the man who in­vented sleep," so we may well join in blessing the in­ventor of circumcision, as an event that has saved some parts of the human family from much ill and suffering.

The text of the entire book has now been posted on Project Gutenberg website.


Remondino seriously thought circumcision would reduce rape - and seems to have accepted lynching as axiomatic.

"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 [= preferentially raping white women] 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."

- P.C. Remondino MD, "Questions of the day:
Negro rapes and their social problems",
National Popular Review, Vol. 4,
January 1894, pp. 3-6

Remondino's proposal was supported by several medical journals, including the Maryland Medical Journal and the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal (now the New England Journal of Medicine).


Related pages:

Back to the Intactivism index page.