An Essay on Crimes and Punishments/Chapter XXXIX

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An Essay on Crimes and Punishments by Cesare Beccaria
Chapter XXXIX
Of a particular Kind of Crimes

CHAPTER XXXIX.


Of a particular Kind of Crimes.


THE reader will perceive that I have omitted speaking of a certain class of crimes which has covered Europe with blood, and raised up those horrid piles,  from whence, midst clouds of whirling smoke, the groans of human victims, the crackling of their bones, and the frying of their still panting bowels, were a pleasing spectacle and agreeable harmony to the fanatic multitude. But men of understanding will perceive, that the age and country in which I live, will not permit me to inquire into the nature of this crime. It were too tedious, and foreign to my subject, to prove the necessity of a perfect uniformity of opinions in a state, contrary to the examples of many nations; to prove that opinions, which differ from one another only in some subtile and obscure distinctions, beyond the reach of human capacity, may nevertheless disturb the public tranquillity, unless one only religion be established by authority; and that some opinions, by being contrasted and opposed to each other, in their collision strike out the truth; whilst others, feeble in themselves, require the support of power and authority. It would, I say, carry me too far, were I to prove, that how odious soever is the empire of force over the opinions of mankind, from whom it only obtains dissimulation followed by contempt; and although it may seem contrary to the spirit of humanity and brotherly love, commanded us by reason, and authority, which we more respect, it is nevertheless necessary and indispensible. We are to believe, that all these paradoxes are solved beyond a doubt, and are conformable to the true interest of mankind, if practised by a lawful authority. I write only of crimes which violate the laws of nature and the social contract, and not of sins, even the temporal punishments of which must be determined from other principles than those of limited human philosophy.