proceeding in the execution of this law, lest, by the defect of the means, or inexperience or awkwardness, the execution should become cruel to the patient and offensive to the spectators, in which case it might be feared that the people, out of mere humanity, might be led to take vengeance on the executioner himself—a result which it is important to prevent. I believe that these representations and fears are well founded. Experience and reason alike prove that the mode of beheading hitherto practised exposes the patient to a more frightful punishment than the mere deprivation of life, which is all the law directs. To obey strictly the law, the execution should be performed in a single moment and at one blow. All experience proves how difficult it is to accomplish this.
"We should recollect what passed at the execution of M. de Lally. He was on his knees—his eyes covered— the executioner struck him on the back of the neck—the blow did not sever the head, and could not have done so. The body, which had nothing to uphold it, fell on the face, and it was by three or four cuts of a sabre that the head was at length severed from the body. This hackery [hacherie], if I may be allowed to invent the word, excited the horror of the spectators.
"In Germany the executioners are more expert from the frequency of this class of execution, principally because females of whatever rank undergo no other. But even there the execution is frequently imperfect, even though they take the precaution of tying the patient in a chair.
"In Denmark there are two positions and two instruments for decapitation. The mode of execution which may be supposed to be the more honourable is by the sword, the patient kneeling with his eyes covered and his hands free. In the other, which is supposed to attach
Page:History of the Guillotine.djvu/44
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M. LOUIS'S REPORT.