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FrRevol_651-700.indd 9 3/16/12 1:16 PM CHAPTER IV OfLiherty and Puhlic Spirit Among the English. The first basis ofall liberty is individual security; and nothing is finer than English legislation in this respect. A criminal suit is in every country a horrible spectacle. In England the excellence of the procedure, the humanity of the judges, the precautions of every kind taken to secure the life of the innocent man, and means of defense to the guilty mingle a sentiment of admiration with the anguish of such a discussion. How will you he tried? says the officer of the court to the accused. By God and my country, replies the latter. Godgrantyou good deliverance, rejoins the officer ofthe court. From the opening ofthe proceedings, ifthe prisoner be confused , ifhe commit himselfby his answers, the judge sets him in the proper path and takes no account ofinconsiderate words which might escape him. In the progress of the trial he never addresses himself to the accused, fearing that the emotion naturally experienced by the latter might expose him to injure himself. Indirect witnesses, that is, witnesses who depose on hearsay, are never admitted, as in France. In short, all the precautions have the interest of the accused for their object. Religion and liberty preside over the imposing act which permits man to condemn his fellow creature to death. The admirable institution of juries, which in England goes back to a very remote period, introduces equity into the administration ofjustice . Those who are momentarily invested with the right of sending a guilty person to death have a natural sympathy with the habits ofhis life, as they are in general chosen in a class nearly similar to his own; and when juries are obliged to find a criminal guilty, he himselfis at least certain that society has done everything to procure his acquittal, if he had deserved it; and this conviction cannot but produce some tranquillity in his heart. FrRevol_651-700.indd 10 3/16/12 1:16 PM PART VI For the past century, there is perhaps no example in England ofa capital conviction in which the innocence of the individual was discovered too late. The citizens of a free state have so large a share of good sense and conscientiousness that, with these two directing lights, they never err. We know what a noise was produced in France by the sentence pronounced against Calas,1 by that against Lally/ and shortly before the Revolution , president Dupaty published a most energetic pleading in favor of three accused persons who had been condemned to die on the wheel, and whose innocence was proved after their death. Such misfortunes could not occur under the laws and criminal procedure ofEngland; and public opinion , that court ofappeal, would, with the liberty ofthe press, make known the slightest error in that respect, were it possible that it could be committed. Moreover, offenses which have no connection whatever with politics are not those in which we have to dread the application ofarbitrary power. In general, it is oflittle consequence to the great personages ofthis world in what way robbers and assassins are tried; and no person has an interest in wishing that the laws should not be respected in such trials. But when political crimes are in question, those crimes with which opposite parties reproach each other with so much hatred and bitterness, then it is that we have seen in France all kinds ofextraordinary tribunals, created byexisting circumstances, applied to such an individual and justified, it was said, by the greatness of the offense; while it is exactly when this offense is of a nature to excite the passions strongly that we are under the greatest necessity of recurring for its trial to the dispassionate firmness of justice. The English had been vexed like the French, like every people ofEurope , where the empire of law is not established, by the Star Chamber/ by extraordinary commissions, by the extension ofthe crime ofhigh treason to all that was displeasing to the possessors ofpower. But since liberty has been consolidated in England, not only has no individual accused of 1. Calas was a prominent Protestant condemned to death in 1762 for allegedly having murdered his son in Toulouse. The Royal Council found him not guilty in 176;. 2. Wrongly condemned to death (for having surrendered Pondichery to the English) and executed in 1766. 3. See note 3, p. 342, above. 66o FrRevol_651-700.indd 11 3/16/12...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781614878636
Related ISBN
9780865977327
MARC Record
OCLC
836874520
Pages
834
Launched on MUSE
2014-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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