Criminal Legislation Essay

Criminal Legislation Essay-16
Some motives, therefore, that strike the senses, were necessary to prevent the despotism of each individual from plunging society into its former chaos.Such motives are the punishment established against the infractors of the laws.

Some motives, therefore, that strike the senses, were necessary to prevent the despotism of each individual from plunging society into its former chaos.Such motives are the punishment established against the infractors of the laws.

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These are the produce of this enlightened age; but the cruelty of punishments, and the irregularity of proceeding in criminal cases, so principal a part of the legislation, and so much neglected throughout Europe, has hardly ever been called in question.

Errors, accumulated through many centuries, have never been exposed by ascending to general principles; nor has the force of acknowledged truths been ever opposed to the unbounded licentiousness of ill-directed power, which has continually produced so many authorized examples of the most unfeeling barbarity.

The sum of all these portions of the liberty of each individual constituted the sovereignty of a nation; and was deposited in the hands of the sovereign, as the lawful administrator.

But it was not sufficient only to establish this deposit; it was also necessary to defend it from the usurpation of each individual, who will always endeavour to take away from the mass, not only his own portion, but to encroach on that of others.

But it must also be allowed, that much is still wanting to perfect our system of legislation; the confinement of debtors, the filth and horror of our prisons, the cruelty of jailors, and the extortion of the petty officers of justice, to all which may be added the melancholy reflection, that the number of criminals put to death in England is much greater than in any other part of Europe, are considerations which will sufficiently answer every objection.

These are my only reasons for endeavouring to diffuse the knowledge of the useful truths contained in this little essay; and I say, with my author, that if I can be instrumental in rescuing a single victim from the hand of tyranny or ignorance, his transports will sufficiently console me for the contempt of all mankind.

I say that motives of this kind are necessary; because experience shews that, the multitude adopt no established rules of conduct; and because, society is prevented from approaching to that dissolution (to which, as well as all other parts of the physical and moral world, it naturally tends) only by motives that are the immediate objects of sense, and which, being continually presented to the mind, are sufficient to counterbalance the effects of the passions of the individual which oppose the general good.

Neither the power of eloquence, nor the sublimest truths, are sufficient to restrain, for any length of time, those passions which are excited by the lively impression of present objects. A proposition which may be made more general, thus.

Surely, the groans of the weak, sacrificed to the cruel ignorance and indolence of the powerful; the barbarous torments lavished and multiplied with useless severity, for crimes either not proved, or in their nature impossible; the filth and horrors of a prison, increased by the most cruel tormentor of the miserable, uncertainty, ought to have roused the attention of those, whose business is to direct the opinions of mankind. Truth, which is eternally the same, has obliged me to follow the steps of that great man; but the studious part of mankind, for whom I write, will easily distinguish the superstructure from the foundation.

I shall be happy, if, with him, I can obtain the secret thanks of the obscure and peaceful disciples of reason and philosophy, and excite that tender emotion, in which sensible minds sympathise with him who pleads the cause of humanity.

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