Page:The World's Famous Orations Volume 7.djvu/228
THE WORLD'S FAMOUS ORATIONS
alty of death, who sees and hears us ; before that gibbet, to which, two thousand years ago, for the eternal instruction of the generations, the human law nailed the Divine !
In all that my son has written on the subject of capital punishment — and for writing and pub- lishing which he is now before you on trial — in all that he has written, he has merely proclaimed the sentiments with which, from his infancy, I have inspired him. Gentlemen jurors, the right to criticize a law, and to criticize it severely — especially a penal law — is placed beside the duty of amelioration, like a torch beside the work under the artisan's hand. This right of the jour- nalist is as sacred, as necessary, as imprescripti- ble, as the right of the legislator.
What are the circumstances? A man, a con- vict, a sentenced wretch, is dragged, on a certain morning, to one of our public squares. There ho finds the scaffold! He shudders, he struggles, he refuses to die. He is young yet — only twenty- nine. Ah ! I know what you will say — "He is a murderer!" But hear me. Two officers seize him. His hands, his feet, are tied. He throws off the two officers. A frightful struggle en- sues. His feet, bound as they are, become en- tangled in the ladder. He uses the scaffold against the scaffold! The struggle is prolonged. Horror seizes on the crowd. The officers — sweat and shame on their brows — pale, panting, terri- fied, despairing — despairing with I know not what horrible despair — shrinking under that 194