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government could lessen the violations of the law in this respect by lowering the duties.
Towns and cities should be lighted at the public expense; as crime would thereby be much diminished.
Punishment of suicide (then inflicted by burial of the body of the offender with a stake driven through it at midnight at a cross roads, and by confiscation of property) should be abolished, as it only falls on the innocent. Laws against emigration should be repealed, as being an unreasonable restraint on personal liberty.
The law should never undertake to control men's opinions, or to punish criminally mere breaches of morals. “To attempt,” said the author, “to subject a multitude of intelligent beings to the invariable regularity of inanimate machinery, is to indulge in a false notion of utility.” Liberty and law should march hand in hand.
No confession should be admitted in evidence unless voluntarily made. Judges should not act as prosecutors; but should be impartial between the State and the defendant. The law should disregard all distinctions of rank and station.
The author closed with these words:
“If punishment is not to be a mere act of violence on the part of one person or more, it should be public, prompt, necessary, as mild as possible, proportioned to the offense, and fixed by the laws."
Such is the substance of this little book which was written in a modest style that did not invite controversy.
The author prudently avoided comparisons, or criticisms of existing institutions. He only said: “Such is the sad condition of the human mind that we have a better knowledge of the revolutions of the heavenly bodies than of moral truths that lie very near us, and which are intimately connected with our happiness. Truths that concern us most are uncertain, encircled with darkness, and adrift on the whirlpool of our passions.
The book was certainly received with general favor; but not with universal approval. It was promptly condemned by the inquisition in Venice.
A monk named Corfri, living in a monastery in Vallombrosa, published a book in which he hurled at Beccaria all the anathemas that had accumulated in the arsenals of theological controversy for centuries.
He said that Beccaria had distilled a gall of unexampled bitterness; that to shameful contradictions he had added secret and perfidious traits of hypocrisy; that his book was horrible, venomous, licentious, impious, infamous, filled with impudent blasphemies, insolent ironies, indecent pleasantries, dangerous subtleties, scandalous railleries, and outrageous slanders.
This good monk had no doubt of the punishment that Beccaria deserved, or of the final destruction by which he would be overtaken. On these subjects his notions had all of that definiteness that Beccaria desired that the laws should assume.
At that time Linguet and Brissot, one of the future leaders of the Girondists, were writing on different newspapers in Paris. They had formerly been on the staff of Freron, the well known editor of a Parisian periodical, where they had quarreled bitterly; a quarrel that was definitely ended when they were both guillotined during the reign of terror.
Linguet, who was an obscurant of the most pronounced type, wrote a review in which he denounced Beccaria's book with the utmost vehemence, and in which he told various lies about the author. Brissot wrote a review in which he highly eulogized the work on “Crimes and Punishments,” concluding by saying that the author had secured an additional triumph by reason of the censure of Linguet.
Perhaps the most extraordinary production called forth was from one Vouglans, who had formerly been one of the judges of the Parliament Maupeou. He and his fellows having been turned out to grass by Louis XVI., he found time to write two folio volumes in denunciation of Beccaria; in which he urged that the reason there was so much crime was that the laws were not severe enough, and that many crimes were not made punishable by law at all.
The work on “Crimes and Punishments” undoubtedly hastened the step of the French Revolution. It was the textbook of its principal leaders. By sending a searching ray of light into the dark recesses of the criminal law it showed the folly and in justice of most of the existing institutions; and excited in France a spirit of general revolt.
The Revolution began very well. One of the first things to which the Constituent Assembly turned its attention was the preparation of a criminal code based on the suggestions of Beccaria. The result was a code which is hardly open to intelligent criticism; and, with but few changes, it still remains in force.
When, under the reaction against ancient abuses, the Revolution, unable to steer between the Scylla of tyranny and the Charybdis of anarchy, adopted the methods that it had denounced, and substituted the Revolutionary Tribunal in place of the worst of those that had existed under the old regime, such a sudden lapse from high ideas must have grieved the heart of the Italian jurist. We cannot doubt that he was pained to perceive that right triumphs in this world very much as wrong triumphs. He could not foresee that out of all that turmoil would come, far off, the unification and the enfranchisement of his native land; objects that he coveted, but for which he dared not hope.
The victory of Beccaria has become complete. The principles that he announced are now embodied in every criminal code in Christendom; and they have even penetrated the distant Orient. Japan years ago adopted a criminal code based on his views.
During the late war between China and Japan the Japanese government threw troops into Korea, and ruled the country as long as the war lasted. At the end of the war Japan showed that her people were not thoroughly civilized, or at least not deeply imbued with the spirit of modern Christianity, by freeing Korea from the Chinese yoke, hauling down the Japanese flag, withdrawing her troops, and leaving the Koreans to work out their own political salvation.
Since that time the king of Korea has introduced various reforms. On the 8th day of January, 1895, he issued a proclamation containing these words, taken almost literally from Beccaria :
“Civil law and criminal law must be strictly and clearly laid down; none must be imprisoned or fined in excess, so that security of life and property may be ensured for all alike."
Beccaria's book had the honor of being translated into French by the Abbe Morellet, at the suggestion of Malesherbes; and of being annotated by Diderot, who was then a great light in the literary firmament. He was a man of ability, and of wonderful information ; but in this instance he failed completely. He favored the abolition of preliminary torture, but recommended that supplemental torture be perpetuated, notwithstanding the fact that long experience had shown that criminals under torture were much more likely to implicate innocent persons than to denounce their friends. He also had unbounded faith in the omnipotence of the law. He said: “Where the laws are good, men are good; and where the laws are bad, men are bad;" thus mistaking the effect for the cause.
Voltaire published a pamphlet anonymously, in which he defended the theories of Beccaria, and enforced them by various historical references.
It is not surprising that a revolution so extensive as that contemplated by Beccaria should have met with opposition. Errors particularly if they are of long standing-die hard. Outside of poetry they rarely die at all; but are continually made to assume new forms, and are reissued. Hence life is what it has always been, a combat.
Cicero approved of the gladiatorial shows because, he said, they taught men how to die; and Pliny the younger, perhaps the most refined man of antiquity, thought that they should be encouraged.
In our own times we have many brutal exhibitions, which are faithfully reported by the press; and the law has to require that public executions shall take place within closed walls in order to prevent them from degenerating into popular spectacles.
Sir Matthew Hale, a very learned man, said that any man who denied witchcraft was an atheist. He proved his faith by causing two old women to be burned for that offense. Blackstone published the fourth volume of his Commentaries in 1769. He had read the treatise of Beccaria; and it had evidently modified his high tory and reactionary views to some slight extent, as is shown in his last chapter; but he believed in witchcraft as devoutly as any Senegambian now living. Speaking of witchcraft, he said: “—The thing itself is a truth to which every nation in the world hath in turn borne testimony, either by examples seemingly well attested, or by prohibitory laws; which at least suppose the possibility of commerce with evil spirits."
Some years ago a distinguished jurist published an article to prove that war is the nurse of all the nobler virtues. The nursing has been so prolonged and exten