Page:Essay on Crimes and Punishments (1775).djvu/26

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14
AN ESSAY ON

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: the spirit of the laws is to be considered. To adopt it is to give way to the torrent of opinions. This may seem a paradox to vulgar minds, which are more strongly affected by the smallest disorder before their eyes, than by the most pernicious, though remote, consequences produced by one false principle adopted by a nation.

Our knowledge is in proportion to the number of our ideas. The more complex these are, the greater is the variety of posi-