Page:History of the Guillotine.djvu/36

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21
QUESTION OF CAPITAL PUNISHMENT.

execution came next into discussion, and on the 3rd of June, 1791, the following article was proposed:—

"Every criminal condemned to death shall be beheaded [aura la tête tranchée]."

In the debate on this question there were also some noticeable circumstances. M. La Chèze reproduced, rather more diffusely, the Abbé Maury's original objection to familiarising the people to the sight of blood; and it seemed now to produce more impression than it had formerly done. Two years of bloody anarchy had, we presume, a little sobered all minds capable of sobriety; but the Duke de Liancourt, a distinguished professor of philanthropy, employed the recent murders à la lanterne as an argument in favour of the new proposition:—

"There was one consideration," he said, "which ought to incline the Assembly to adopt the proposal for beheading—the necessity of effacing from the social system all traces of a punishment [hanging] which has lately been so irregularly applied, and which has, during the course of the Revolution, so unfortunately lent itself to popular vengeance."

Irregularly applied! What a designation of a series of most atrocious murders! But the ultra-liberal Duke had soon to learn that these irregular applications of popular vengeance were not to be controlled by fine-spun theories. He too was pursued, after the 10th of August, by the fury of a bloodthirsty populace; but, more fortunate than