notoriety by proposing reforms in matters of health and morals, on which he might be supposed to have some kind of professional authority, and amongst others he took up the question of capital punishment—first, with the moral but visionary object of putting down by law the popular prejudice against the families of criminals; secondly, on the political ground that punishments should be equalized; and thirdly, he contended that hanging was a lingering and therefore cruel punishment, while death by decapitation must be immediate.
Small circumstances mix themselves with great results. On the 9th of October, 1789, the National Assembly, in consequence of the tragic exodus of the Court from Versailles, resolved to transfer itself to Paris, and Dr. Guillotin, being one of the representatives of that city, thought it expedient to prepare for himself a good reception from his constituents, and on that very day he gave notice of, and on the next—the 10th—produced, the following series of propositions:—
"I. Crimes of the same kind shall be punished by the same kind of punishment, whatever be the rank of the criminal.
"II. In all cases (whatever be the crime) of capital punishment, it shall be of the same kind—that is, beheading—and it shall be executed by means of a machine [l'effet d'un simple mécanisme].
"III. Crime being personal, the punishment, whatever it may be, of a criminal shall inflict no disgrace on his family.