Of Crimes and Punishments
ARE sanctuaries just? Is a convention between nations
mutually to give up their criminals useful?
In the whole extent of a political state there should be
no place independent of the laws. Their power should follow every subject, as
the shadow follows the body. Sanctuaries and impunity differ only in degree,
and as the effect of punishments depends more on their certainty than their
greatness, men are more strongly invited to crimes by sanctuaries than they are
deterred by punishment. To increase the number of sanctuaries is to erect so
many little sovereignties; for where the laws have no power, new bodies will be
formed in opposition to the public good, and a spirit established contrary to
that of the state. History informs us, that from the use of sanctuaries have
arisen the greatest revolutions in kingdoms and in opinions.
Some have pretended, that in whatever country a crime,
that is, an action contrary to the laws of society, be committed, the criminal
may be justly punished for it in any other; as if the character of subject were
indelible, or synonymous with or worse than that of slave; as if a man could
live in one country and be subject to the laws of another, or be accountable
for his actions to two sovereigns, or two codes of laws often contradictory.
There are also those who think, that an act of cruelty committed, for example,
at Constantinople may be punished at Paris, for this abstracted reason, that he
who offends humanity should have enemies in all mankind, and be the object of
universal execration; as if judges were to be the knights-errant of human
nature in general, rather than guardians of particular conventions between men.
The place of punishment can certainly be no other than that where the crime was
committed; for the necessity of punishing an individual for the general good,
subsists there, and there only. A villain, if he has not broke through the
conventions of a society, of which, by my supposition, he was not a member, may
be feared, and by force banished and excluded from that society, but ought not
to be formally punished by the laws, which were only intended to maintain the
social compact, and not to punish the intrinsic malignity of actions.
Whether it be useful that nations should mutually deliver
up their criminals? Although the certainty of there being no part of the earth
where crimes are not punished, may be a means of preventing them, I shall not
pretend to determine this question, until laws more conformable to the
necessities, and rights of humanity, and until milder punishments, and the
abolition of the arbitrary power of opinion, shall afford security to virtue
and innocence when oppressed; and until tyranny shall be confined to the plains
of Asia, and Europe acknowledge the universal empire of reason by which the
interests of sovereigns and subjects are best united.
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