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EXAMINATION OF SOME COMMON
FTER examining 1st, Aflictive punishments : 2dly, Inde lible punishments : and 3dly, Ignominious punishments, he proceeds to
Chronic punishments---Banishment, Imprisonment, are fit for many offences, but require particular attention to the circumstances which have influence upon the feelings : banishment, if inflicted without discrimination, is a very unequal punishment: its effect depends upon condition, and upon fortune: some have no cause of attachment to their country: others will be in despair upon being transported from their property and from their home: some have a family ; others are unmarried and childless ; to some it will be the destruction of every hope; to others an escape from creditors. The considerations of age and sex are also of great importance : for these reasons much must be left to the discretion of the judge.
The English, before the independence of America, were accustomed to transport to the colonies a numerous class of offenders : this transportation to some was slavery, to others a party of pleasure. A wretch, desirous to quit his country, would, to obtain a conveyance, commit a crime. The most industrious settled themselves in their place of exile : the most abandoned, unable to exist by robbery in a country where escape was impossible, soon returned to an ignominious death. Once condemned and transported, they were forgotten.
Who was interested in knowing whether they dicd of hunger or of disease ? As example the whole was lost : the principal object was entirely neglected. This object is equally frustrated by the modern mode of transportation to Botany Bay : it is attended with all the evils of punishment, and is without any of its advantages.
What an absurdity, what a madness would it be to offer an establishment abroad by saying that it was a reward for crime! But transportation must present itself to the mind of many in distress, as an advantageous offer of which they can profit only by wickedness. Thus the law, instead of counteracting the temptation, frequently adds to its force.
As to prisons, it is impossible to judge of the propriety of this punishment, until every thing which relates to their structure, and to their interior government is understood. Prisotis in general, contain every thing likely to pollute the body and debase the mind. Examine them merely as the abodles of inactivity: the faculties of the prisoners languish, and become enervated from disuse : their organs, no longer pliant, are paralized : injured in their character, and interrupted in their hobits of labour, they are goaded by misery into crime: placed under the subaltern despotism of persons, who are generally depraved by the sight of wickedness and the
practice of tyranny, these unfortunate men may be exposed to a thousand unknown sufferings, by which they are embittered against society, and hardened against punishment.
In a moral point of view, a prison is a school in which vice learns, by the most certain means, that every attempt to acquire virtue is vain and idle. Spleen, revenge and want, preside at this education of perversity. Emulation becomes the parent of crime. The ferocious inspires others with his ferocity ; the cunning, with his tricks; the debauched, with his licentiousness. Every thing that can debase the
heart and the imagination is the resource of their despair: united by a common interest, they mutually aid each other in shaking off the yoke of shame. Upon the ruins of social honour a false honour arises, composed of deceit, of intrepi. dity in opprobrium, of forgetfulness of the future, of enmity against the human race. It is thus that our unfortunate fellow creatures, who might have been restored to virtue and happiness, pride themselves upon the heroism of crime and the sublime of wickedness.
A criminal, after having completed his term in prison, ought not, without precaution and trial, to be restored to society: be ought not to be permitted to pass immediately from a state of inspection and of captivity to unlimited liberty ; to be at once abaxidoned to all the temptations of loneliness, of misery, and of desire sharpened by long priva, tion.
The more we examine the punishment of death, the more we shall be induced to adopt the opinion of Beccaria. This
Plus on examine la peine de mort, plus on est porté à adopter l'opinion de Beccaria. Ce sujet est si bien discuté dans son ouvragc, qu'on peut se dispenser de le traiter après lui. Ceux qui veulent voir d'un coup d'œil tout ce qu'on peut dire pour et contre, n'ont qu'à parcourir la table des qualités qu'on doit chercher dans les peines. (Voyez chap. 6.)
D'où peut venir la fureur avec laquelle on a prodigué cette peine? C'est un effet du ressentiment qui se porte d'abord vers la plus grande rigueur, et d'une paresse d'esprit qui fait trouver dans la destruction rapide des coupables le grand avantage de n'y plus
subject is so well discussed in his work, that there is scarcely any necessity for further investigation : they who are desirous to see at one view, all that can be said in favour and in opposition to it, have only to look at the table of qualities, which punishments ought to contain *.
The infliction of this punishment originated in resentment, indulging itself in rigour; and in sloth, which, in the rapid destruction of offenders, found the great advantage of avoiding all thought. Death! always death! this requires neither the exertion of reason, nor the subjugation of passion.
If it be said that death is necessary to prevent an assassin from repeating bis crimes, it must be remembered, that, for the same reason, men who are insane and outrageous, from whom society has every thing to fear, ought to be destroyed. If we can ensure ourselves against these, why not against the others ? If it be said that death is the only punishment which can prevail over certain temptations to commit homicide, it must be remembered, that these temptations can originate only in enmity or desire : must not these passions, from their very
penser. La mort! toujours la mort! cela ne demande ni méditation de génie, ni résistance aux passions. Il ne faut que s'abandonner pour aller jusque là d'un seul trait.
Dira-t-on que la mort est nécessaire pour ôter à un assassin le pouvoir de réitérer ses crimes ? Mais il faudroit, par la même raison, faire périr les frénétiques, les enragés, dont la société a tout à craindre. Si on peut s'assurer de ceux-ci, pourquoi ne pour. roit-on pas s'assurer des autres ? Dira-t-on que la mort est la seule peine qui puisse l'emporter sur certaines tentations de commettre un homicidc? Mais ces tentations ne peuvent venir que
d'inimitié ou de cupidité. Ces deux passions ne doivent-elles pas par leur propre
* Ante page, 219.
nature, dread humiliation, indigence, and captivity, more than death?
I should astonish my readers, if I were to expose to them the penal code of a nation, celebrated for its humanity and its intelligence; we might there expect to find the greatest proportion between offences and punishments ; but, whatever may be our expectations, we should see this proportion continually violated, and the punishment of death inflicted upon the most trifling offences. The consequence is, that, the sweetness of the national character being in contradiction to the laws, the manners triumph and the laws are eluded : they multiply pardons, they shut their eyes upon offences, their ears to proofs; and the juries, to avoid an excess of severity, frequently fall into an excess of indulgence : the result is a penal system, which is incoherent and contradictory, which unites violence to feebleness, and, depending upon the hunour of the judge, varies from circuit to circuit, being sanguinary in one part of the island, and merciful in another.
nature redouter l'humiliation, l'indigence, et la captivité plus que la mort?
J'étonnerois les lecteurs si je leur exposois le Code pénal d'una Nation célèbre par son humanité et par ses lumières. On s'atten. droit à y trouver la plus grande proportion entre les délits et les peines : on y verroit cette proportion continuellement oubliée ou renversée, et la peine de mort prodiguée pour les délits les moins graves. Qu'en arrive. t-il? la douceur du caractère national étant en contradiction avec les lois, ce cont les meurs qui triomphent, ce sont les lois qui sont éludées : on multiplie les pardons, on ferıne les yeux sur les délits, on se rend trop difficiles sur les témoignages; ct les Jurés, pour éviter un excès de sévérité, tombent souvent dans un excès d'indulgence. De là résulte un système pénal incohérent, contradietoire, unisant la violence à la foiblesse, dépendant de l'humeur d’un Juge, variant de circuit en circuit, quelquefois sanguinaire, quelquefois nul.