« ÎnapoiContinuă »
...I leave to your prudence what measures you will take; and, to avoid suspicion, I must immediately return in as private a manner as I came. His. lordship did so, and I remained alone under many doubts and perplexities of mind. 401
It was a custom introduced by this prince and his ministry (very different, as I have been assured, from the practices of former times) that after the court had decreed any cruel execution, either to gratify the monarch's resentment, or the malice of a favourite, the emperor always made a speech to his whole council, expressing his great lenity and tenderness, as qualities known and confessed by all the world. This speech was immediately published throughout the kingdom; nor did any thing terrify the people so much as those encomiums on his majesty's mercy; because it was observed, the more these praises were enlarged and insisted on, the more inhuman was the punishment, and the sufferer more innocent. Yet as to myself, I must confess, having never been designed for a courtier either by my birth or education, I was so ill a judge of things, that I could not discover the lenity and favour of this sentence, but conceived it (perhaps erroneously) rather to be rigorous than gentle. I sometimes thought of standing my trial; for although I could not deny the facts alleged in the several articles, ' yet I hoped they would admit of some extenuation. But having in my life perused many statel trials, which I ever observed to terminate as the judges thought fit to direct, I durst not rely on so dangerous
gerous a decision, in so critical. a juncture, and against so powerful enemies. At last I fixed upon a resolution, for which it is probable I may incur sonie censure, and not unjustly; for I confess I owe the preserving mine eyes, and consequently my liberty, to my own great rashness and want of experience; because, if I had then known the nature of princes and ministers, which I have since observed in many other courts, and their method of treating criminals less obnoxious than myself, I should with great alacrity and readiness have submitted to so easy a punishment.
SWIFT. Gulliver's Travels, part i, ch. vii.
IN common crimes the laws of England are favourable to the accused; but in cases of hightreason they are against him. The jesuit Titus Oates, being legally interrogated in the House of Commons, and having, upon his oath, declared that he had related the whole truth, yet afterwards, accused the secretary of the duke of York and several others of high treason, and his information was admitted. He likewise swore before the king's council, that he had not seen the secretary, and afterwards, that he had. Notwithstanding these illegalities, and contradictions, the secretary was executed.
The same Titus Oates and another witness deposed, that fifty jesuits had conspired to assassi nate Charles II. and that they had seen commissions, signed by father Oliva, general of the je suits, for the officers that were to command an
army of rebels.
This evidence was sufficient to authorise the tearing out the hearts of several people, and dashing them in their faces. But seriously, can two witnesses be thought sufficient to convict a man whom they have a mind to destroy? At least one would imagine they ought not to be notorious villains; neither ought that which they depose to be improbable.
Let us suppose that two of the most upright magistrates in the kingdom were to accuse a man of having conspired with the mufti, to circumcise the whole council of state, the parliament, the archbishop, and the Sorbonne. In vain these two magistrates might swear, that they had seen letters of the mufti: it would naturally be supposed that they were disordered in their heads. It was equally ridiculous to imagine, that the general of the jesuits should raise an army in England, as that the mufti should circumcise the court of
France. But unhappily, Titus Oates was believed; that there might remain no species of atrocious folly which has not entered into the heart of
192790 obojeno to Commentary on Beccaria, cb, xv.
6. If the crime of high treason be indeterminate, this alone is sufficient to make the government degenerate into arbitrary power. ef StaJAV 100
MONTESQUIEU.Jude Spirit of Laws, b. xii. cb. vii.
*Ir is also a shocking abuse to give the appellation of high-treason to an action that does not
deserve it. By an imperial law it was determined, that whoever made an attempt to injure the ministers and officers belonging to the sovereign, should be deemed guilty of high treason, as if he had attempted to injure the sovereign himself. This law was owing to two princes, remarkable for their weakness; princes who were led by their ministers, as flocks by shepherds; princes who were slaves in the palace, children in the council, strangers to the army; princes, in fine, who preserved their authority only by giving it away every day. Some of those favourites conspired against their sovereigns. Nay, they did more, they conspired against the empire; they called in barbarous nations; and when the emperors wanted to stop their progress, the state was so enfeebled, as to be under the necessity of infringing the law? and of exposing itself to the crime of high treason, in order to punish those favourites.
THERE was a law passed in England under Henry VIII. by which whoever predicted the king's death was declared guilty of high treason. This law was extremely vague; the terror of despotic power is so great, that it recoils upon those who exercise jt. In this king's last illness, the physicians would not venture to say he was in danger, and they surely acted right.
Ib. ch. x.
MARSYAS dreamt that he had cut Dionysius's throat. Dionysius put him to death, pretending
that he would never have dreamt of such a thing by night, if he had not thought of it by day.
Ib. ch. xi.
NOTHING renders the crime of high treason more arbitrary than declaring people guilty of it for indiscreet speeches.
Words do not constitute an overt act; they remain only in idea. When considered by themselves, they have generally no determinate signification; for this depends on the tone in which they are uttered. It often happens, that in repeating the same words, they have not the same meaning; this depends on their connection with other things: and sometimes more is signified by silence than by any expression whatever. Since there can be nothing so equivocal and ambiguous as all this; how is it possible to convert it into a crime of high treason? Where this law is established, there is an end not only of liberty, but even of its very shadow.
Ib. cb. xii.
In writings there is something more permanent than in words; but when they are no way preparative to high treason, they cannot amount to that charge.