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The consequences of being a criminal essay

A Commentary on the Book of Crimes and Punishments. The Occasion of this Commentary. On the Punishment of Heretics. On the Extirpation of Heresy. Of the Indulgence of the Romans in Matters of Religion. Of the Crime of Preaching; and of Anthony. The History of Simon Morin. On the Punishment of Death. Of certain sanguinary Tribunals. On the Difference between Political and Natural Laws. On a certain Species of Mutilation.

On criminal Procedure, and other Forms. The Idea of Reformation. In every human society, there is an effort continually tending to confer on one part the height of power and happiness, and to reduce the other to the extreme of weakness and misery.

  1. There are feelings of shame which are likely to develop because of the criminal act. And how great are the obligations due from mankind to that philosopher, who, from the obscurity of his closet, had the courage to scatter among the multitude the seeds of useful truths, so long unfruitful!
  2. It may seem extraordinary that I speak of probability with regard to crimes, which, to deserve a punishment, must be certain.
  3. Can the groans of a tortured wretch recal the time past, or reverse the crime he has committed? With regard to Edition.
  4. But can there be any crime, committed against the public, which ought not to be publicly punished?

The intent of good laws is to oppose this effort, and to diffuse their influence universally and equally. But men generally abandon the care of their most important concerns to the uncertain prudence the consequences of being a criminal essay discretion of those, whose interest it is to reject the best and wisest institutions; and it is not till they have been led into a thousand mistakes, in matters the most essential to their lives and liberties, and are weary of suffering, that they can be induced to apply a remedy to the evils with which Edition: It is then they begin to conceive, and acknowledge the most palpable truths, which, from their very simplicity, commonly escape vulgar minds, incapable of analysing objects, accustomed to receive impressions without distinction, and to be determined rather by the opinions of others, than by the result of their own examination.

If we look into history we shall find that laws which are, or ought to be, conventions between men in a state of freedom, have been, for the most part, the work of the passions of a few, or the consequences of a fortuitous or temporary necessity; not dictated by a cool examiner of human nature, who knew how to collect in one point the actions of a multitude, and had this only end in view, the greatest happiness of the greatest number.

Happy are those few nations who have not waited till the slow succession of human vicissitudes should, from the extremity of evil, produce a transition to good; but, by prudent laws, have facilitated the progress from one to the other! And how great are the obligations due from mankind to that philosopher, who, from the obscurity of his closet, had the courage to scatter among the multitude the seeds of useful truths, so long unfruitful!

By this knowledge commerce is animated, and there has sprung up a spirit of emulation and industry worthy of rational beings. 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. 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 consequences of being a criminal essay 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.

Laws are the conditions under which men, naturally independent, united themselves in society. Weary of living in a continual state of war, and of enjoying a liberty which became of little value, from the uncertainty of its duration, they sacrificed one part of it to enjoy the rest in peace and security.

The sum of all these portions of the liberty of each individual constituted the sovereignty Edition: 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. Some motives, therefore, that strike the senses, were necessary to prevent the despotism of each individual from plunging society into its former chaos.

Outline the reasons for crime and the consequences of crimes for both the victim and the criminal.

Such motives are the punishment established against the infractors of the laws. 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. Every punishment which does not arise from absolute necessity, says the great Montesquieu, is tyrannical. A proposition which may be made more general, thus. Every act of authority of one man over another, for which there is not an absolute necessity, is tyrannical.

Whatever law deviates from this principle will always meet with a resistance, which will destroy it in the end; for the smallest force, continually applied, Edition: No man ever gave up his liberty merely for the good of the public.

Such a chimera exists only in romances. Every individual wishes, if possible, to be exempt from the compacts that bind the rest of mankind. The multiplication of mankind, though slow, being too great for the means which the earth, in its natural state, offered to satisfy necessities, which every day became more numerous, obliged men to separate again, and form new societies. These naturally opposed the first, and a state of war was transferred from individuals to nations.

Thus it was necessity that forced men to give up a part of their liberty; it is certain, then, that every individual would chuse to put into the public stock the smallest portion possible; as much only as was sufficient to engage others to defend it.

The aggregate of these, the smallest portions possible, forms the right of punishing: Observe, that by justice I understand nothing more than that bond, which is necessary to keep the interest of individuals united; without which, men would return to the the consequences of being a criminal essay state of barbarity. All punishments, which exceed the necessity of Edition: We should be cautious how we associate with the word justice, an idea of anything real, such as a physical power, or a being that actually exists.

I do not, by any means, speak of the justice of God, which is of another kind, and refers immediately to rewards and punishments in a life to come. The laws only can determine the punishment of crimes; and the authority of making penal laws can only reside with the legislator, who represents the whole society united by the social compact. No magistrate then, as he is one of the society, can, with justice, inflict on any other member of the same society, punishment that is not ordained by the laws.

But as a punishment, increased beyond the degree fixed by the law, is the just punishment, with the addition of another; it follows, that no magistrate, even under a pretence Edition: If every individual be bound to society, society is equally bound to him by a contract, which, from its nature, equally binds both parties.

This obligation, which descends from the throne to the cottage, and equally binds the highest the consequences of being a criminal essay lowest of mankind, signifies nothing more, than that it is the interest of all, that conventions, which are useful to the greatest number, should be punctually observed.

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The violation of this compact by any individual, is an introduction to anarchy. The sovereign, who represents the society itself, can only make general laws to bind the members; but it belongs not to him to judge whether any individual has violated the social compact, or incurred the punishment in consequence.

Consequences of Committing Crime

For in this case there are two parties, one represented by the sovereign, who insists upon the violation of the contract, and the other is the person accused, who denies it. It is necessary then that there should be a third person to decide this contest; that is to say, a judge, or magistrate, from whose determination there should be no appeal; and this determination should consist of a simple affirmation, or negation of fact.

  • It is also just, that the accused should have the liberty of excluding a certain number of his judges;
  • The force of the muscles, and the sensibility of the nerves of an innocent person being given, it is required to find the degree of pain necessary to make him confess himself guilty of a given crime;
  • It is used with an intent either to make him confess his crime, or explain some contradictions, into which he had been led during his examination; or discover his accomplices; or for some kind of metaphysical and incomprehensible purgation of infamy; or, finally, in order to discover other crimes, of which he is not accused, but of which he may be guilty;
  • There are both positive and negative consequences that crop up from committing a crime;
  • I call those perfect which exclude the possibility of innocence; imperfect, those which do not exclude this possibility.

It would also be contrary to justice, and the social compact. Judges, in criminal cases, have no right to interpret the penal laws, because they are not legislators. They have not received the laws from our ancestors as a domestic tradition, or as the will of a testator, which his heirs and executors are to obey; but they receive them from a society actually existing, or from the sovereign, its representative.

Even the authority of the laws is not Edition: The laws receive their force and authority from an oath of fidelity, either tacit or expressed, which living subjects have sworn to their sovereign, in order to restrain the intestine fermentation of the private interests of individuals.

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From hence springs their true and natural authority. Who then is their lawful interpreter? The sovereign, that is, the representative of society, and not the judge, whose office is only to examine, if a man have or have not, committed an action contrary to the laws. In every criminal cause the judge should reason syllogistically. The major should be the general law; the minor the conformity of the action, or its opposition to the laws; the conclusion, liberty or punishment.

If the judge be obliged by the imperfection of the laws, or chuses to make any other, or more syllogisms than this, it will be an introduction to uncertainty. There is nothing more dangerous than the common axiom: To adopt it is to give way to the torrent of opinions. Our knowledge is in proportion to the number of our ideas. The more complex these are, the greater is the variety of positions in which they may be considered.

Every man hath his own particular point of view, and at different times sees the same objects in very different lights. The spirit of the laws will then be the result of the good or bad logic of the judge; and this will depend on his good or bad digestion; on the violence of his passions; on the rank and condition of the abused, or on his connections with the judge; and on all those circumstances which change the appearance of objects in the fluctuating mind of man.

Violent Crime and Youngsters

Hence we see the fate of a delinquent changed many times in passing through the different courts of judicature, and his life and liberty victims to the false ideas or ill humour of the judge; who mistakes the vague result of his own confused reasoning, for the just interpretation of the laws.

We see the same crimes punished in a different manner at different times in the same tribunals; the consequence of not Edition: The disorders that may arise from a rigorous observance the consequences of being a criminal essay the letter of penal laws, are not to be compared with those produced by the interpretation of them.

The first are temporary inconveniencies, which will oblige the legislator to correct the letter of the law, the want of preciseness and uncertainty of which has occasioned these disorders; and this will put a stop to the fatal liberty of explaining; the source of arbitrary and venal declamations.

When the code of laws is once fixed, it should be observed in the literal sense, and nothing more is left to the judge than to determine, whether an action be, or be not, conformable to the written law. When the rule of right, which ought to direct the actions of the philosopher as well as the ignorant, is a matter of controversy, not of fact, the people are slaves to the magistrates. The despotism of this multitude of tyrants is more insupportable, the less the distance is between the oppressor and the oppressed; more fatal than that of one, for the tyranny of many is not to be shaken off, but by having recourse to that of one alone.

It is more cruel, as it meets with more opposition, and the Edition: These are the means by which security of person and property is best obtained; which is just, as it is the purpose of uniting in society; and it is useful, as each person may calculate exactly the inconveniencies attending every crime.

By these means subjects will acquire a spirit of independence and liberty; however the consequences of being a criminal essay may appear to those who dare to call the weakness of submitting blindly to their capricious and interested opinions by the sacred name of virtue.

These principles will displease those who have made it a rule with themselves, to transmit to their inferiors the tyranny they suffer from their superiors. I should have every thing to fear, if tyrants were to read my book; but tyrants never read.

If the power of interpreting laws be an evil, obscurity in them must be another, as the former is the consequence of the latter. This evil will be still greater, if the laws be written in a language unknown to the people; who, being ignorant of the consequences of their own actions, become necessarily dependent on a few, who are interpreters of the laws, which, instead of being public and general, are thus rendered private and particular.

What must we think of mankind when we reflect, that such is the established custom of the greatest part of our polished and enlightened Europe? Crimes will be less frequent, in proportion as the code of laws is more universally read, and understood; for there is no doubt, but that the eloquence of the passions is greatly assisted by the ignorance and uncertainty of punishments.

Hence it follows, that without written laws, no society will ever acquire a fixed form of government, Edition: Experience and reason shew us, that the probability of human traditions diminishes in proportion as they are distant from their sources. How then can laws resist the inevitable force of time, if there be not a lasting monument of the social compact? Hence we see the use of printing, which alone makes the public, and not a few individuals, the guardians and defenders of the laws.

It is this art which, by diffusing literature, has gradually dissipated the gloomy spirit of cabal and intrigue. To this art it is owing, that the atrocious crimes of our ancestors, who were alternately slaves and tyrants, are become less frequent.

Those who are acquainted with the history of the two or three last centuries, may observe, how from the lap of luxury and effeminacy have sprung the most tender virtues, humanity, benevolence, and toleration of human errors. They may contemplate the effects of, what was so improperly called, ancient simplicity and good faith; humanity groaning under implacable superstition; the avarice and ambition of a few, staining with Edition: