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laws, which are in the hands of the rich, are laid upon the poor. Government, while it grows older, seems to acquire the moroseness of age: and, as if our property were become dearer in proportion as it encreased; as if the more enormous our wealth, the more extensive our fears; all our possessions are paled up with new edicts every day, and hung round with gibbets to scare every invader.
I cannot tell whether it is from the number of our penal laws, or the licentiousness of our people, that this country should show more convicts in a year than half the dominions of Europe united. Perhaps it is owing to both ; for they mutually produce each other. When by. indiscriminate penal laws, a nation beholds the same punishment affixed to dissimilar degrees of guilt, from perceiving no distinction in the penalty, the people are led to lose all sense of distinction in the crime, and this distinction is the bulwark of all morality: thus the multitude of laws produce new vices, and new yices call for fresh restraints.
It were to be wished then, that power, instead of contriving new laws to punish vice; instead of drawing hard the cords of society till a convulsion come to burst them; instead of cutting away wretches as useless, before we have tried their utility ; instead of converting correction into vengeance; it were to be wished that we tried the restrictive arts of government, and made law the protector, but not the tyrant of the people. We should then find, that creatures whose souls are held as dross, only wanted the hand of a refiner ; we should then find the wretches, now stuck up for long tortures, lest luxury should feel a momentary pang, might, if properly treated, serve to sinew the state in times of danger; that as their faces are like ours, their hearts are so too; that few minds are so base, as that perseverance cannot amend; that a man may see his last crime, without dying for it ; and that very little blood will serve to cement our security.'
PUBLISHED ABOUT THE YEAR 1750.
Ask an Englishman, What nation in the world enjoys most freedom ? and he immediately answers, his own. Ask him in what that freedom principally consists, and he is instantly silent. This happy pre-eminence does not arise from the people's enjoying a larger share in legislation than elsewhere; for, in this particular, several states in Europe excel them; nor does it arise from a greater exemption from taxes, for few countries pay more; it does not proceed (from their being restrained by fewer laws, for no people are burdened with so many; nor does it particularly consist in the security of their property, for property is pretty well secured in every polite state of Europe.
How then are the English more free (for more free they certainly are) than the people of any other country, or under any other form of government whatever? Their freedom consists in their enjoying all the advantages of democracy, with this superior prerogative, borrowed from monarchy, that “the severity of their laws may be relaxed without endangering the constitution."
Ina monarchical state, in which the constitution is strongest, the laws may be relaxed without danger; for though the
* The Citizen of the World, Chap. 50.
people should be unanimous in the breach of any one in particular, yet still there is an effective power superior to the people, capable of enforcing obedience, whenever it may be proper to inculcate the law, either towards the support or welfare of the community.
But in all those governments where laws derive their sanction from the people alone, transgressions cannot be overlooked without bringing the constitution into danger. They who transgress the law, in such a case, are those who prescribe it; by which means it loses not only its influence, but its sanction. h every republic the laws must be strong, because the constitution is feeble ; they must resemble an Asiatic husband, who is justly jealous because he knows himself impotent. Thus, in Holland, Switzerland, and Genoa, new laws are not frequently enacted, but the old ones are observed with unremitting severity. In such republics, therefore, the people are slaves to laws of their own making, little less than mixed monarchies, where they are slaves to the will of one, subject to frailties like themselves.
In England, from a variety of happy accidents, their constitution is just strong enough, or, if you will, monarchical enough, to permit a relaxation of the severity of laws, and yet those laws still to remain sufficiently strong to govern the people. This is the most perfect state of civil liberty of which we can form an idea ; here we see a greater number of laws than in any other country, while the people, at the same time, obey only such as are immediately conducive to the interests of society. Several are unnoticed, many unknown ; some kept to be revived and enforced upon proper occasions ; others left to grow obsolete, even without the necessity of abrogation.
Scarcely an Englishman who does not, almost every day of his life, offend with impunity against some express law, and
for which, in a certain conjuncture of circumstances, he would not receive punishment. Gaming-houses, preaching at prohibited places, assembled crouds, nocturnal amusements, public shows, and an hundred other instances, are forbid and frequented. These prohibitions are useful; though it be prudent in their magistrates, and happy for their people, that they are not enforced, and none but the venal or mercenary attempt to enforce them.
The law, in this case, like an indulgent parent, still keeps the rod, though the child is seldom corrected. Were those pardoned offences to rise into enormity, were they likely to obstruct the happiness of society, or endanger the state, it is then that justice would resume her terrors, and punish those faults she had so often overlooked with indulgence. It is to this ductility of the laws that an Englishman owes the freedom he enjoys, superior to others in a more popular government: every step, therefore, the constitution takes towards a democratic form, every diminution of the legal authority, is, in fact, a diminution of the subject's freedom : but every attempt to render the government more popular, not only impairs natural liberty, but even will at last dissolve the political con• stitution.
TABLEAU DE PARIS.
SENTENCE OF DEATH.
What boding voice is that, which with its harsh clamors fills the streets and the suburbs, forces its way to the very tops of the houses, and announces that a human being, in the full vigor of youth, is going to be massacred in cold blood, by another human being, in the name of society? It is that of one hurrying along, and in discordant tones crying for sale the sentence still wet from the press. Purchasers gather round him, anxious to learn the name and crime of the delinquent, both of which, however, are quickly forgotten. A sudden and unexpected conviction has appalled the public mind. The populace basten from their trades and their shops, and throng to the scaffold, to observe how the sufferer will go through the great scene of dying in public, in the midst of torments.
The philosopher in his quiet retreat, shudders, as he hears the sentence cried, and sitting down again to his desk, with a heaving heart, and melting eye, discusses the subject of penal laws, and the necessity of capital punishments-inquiring at the same time, whether government or laws are themselves totally free, under this head, from all grounds of selfreproach, and while he, in his solitary apartment, is thus pleading the cause of humanity, and anticipating in imagination the prize of Berne, the executioner is wielding his iron bar, crushes his wretched victim, with eleven successive blows, doubles him upon a wheel, not (as ordained in the sentence;)