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Concerning an injury and a reparation, and the mea. sures by which each of them ought to be estimated, it will not be necessary to say much; because, with regard to them, much confusion or mistake has not been intro. duced into the theory or practice of the law.
Concerning crimes and punishments, and concerning the relation between a crime and an injury, and between punishment and reparation, the case is widely different indeed. On those subjects, an endless confusion has prevailed, and mistakes innumerable have been committed. On those subjects, therefore, it will be proper to be full; and it will certainly be attempted- I promise not success in the attempt to be both accurate and perspicuous.
From an inattention or a disregard to the great principle--that government was made for the sake of man, some writers have been led to consider crimes, in their origin and nature as well as in their degrees and effects, as different from injuries; and have, consequently, taught, that without any injury to an individual, a crime might be committed against the government. Suppose, says one of the learned commentators on Grotius, that one has done neither wrong nor injury to any individual, yet if he has committed something which the law has prohibited, it is a crime, which demands reparation ; because the right of the superiour is violated, and because an injury is offered to the dignity of his character. ^ How naturally one mistake leads to another ! A mistake in legislation produces one in criminal jurisprudence. A law which prohibits what is neither a wrong nor an injury to any one ! What name does it deserve ? We have seen that a law
a 2. War. Bib. 15.
b Ante. vol. 2. p. 443.
which is merely harmless without being tyrannical, is itself a harm; and should be removed.
But this doctrine is unsupported by sound legal principle. Every crime includes an injury: every offence is also a private wrong: it affects the publick, but it affects the individual likewise. It is true indeed, that, in very gross injuries, we seldom hear of any satisfaction being awarded to the individual, for reasons, the propriety of which will, by and by, be examined. But in offences of an inferiour nature, the distinction, and, at the same
the connexion between the crime and the injury is most accurately marked and preserved. For a battery, he who commits it may be indicted. Violence against the person of an individual is a disturbance of the pub
peace. On this disturbance punishment may be inflicted. But in the crime and the punishment, the injury is not sunk, nor is the reparation lost. The party who has suffered the violence may bring his action against the party who has committed it : and recover in damages a satisfaction for the loss which has been sustained.
The doctrine, that a crime may be committed against the publick, without any injury being done to an individual, is as little consonant to the history, as it is to the principles of criminal jurisprudence. Among the Saxons, as we are informed by Mr. Selden, the most ancient way of proceeding, in criminal causes, was by an appeal of the party complaining. But afterwards, in cases which concerned damage, injury, or violence done to the body of a man or to his estate, the king—who represented the publick-was found to be therein prejudiced, beside the prejudice done immediatety to the subject : and upon this ground, a way was found out to punish the offender
by indictment, beside the satisfaction done to the party wronged.
In the very early periods of society, those actions, even the most atrocious, which now are viewed and prosecuted as solely crimes against the state, were considered and resented merely as private injuries. In those ages, the conceptions of men were too crude to consider an injury done to an individual, as a crime committed against the publick; they viewed it only as a prejudice to the party, or the relations of the party, who were immediately affected. The privilege of resenting private injuries, in the opinion of a very ingenious writer on the history of the criminal law," was that private right which was the latest of being surrendered to society. An improvement in government, so opposite to a strong propensity of human nature, could not have been instanta
The progressive steps leading to its completion were slow and almost imperceptible.
Coincident, in a very considerable degree, with these sentiments and observations, is a part of the law and practice of England, which at this moment subsists in its full force-I mean the law and practice concerning appeals, particularly appeals of death. An appeal is the party's private action, seeking satisfaction for the injury done him; and at the same time, prosecuting for the crown in respect of the offence against the publick. On an appeal, the benign prerogative of mercy cannot be exercised; because, saith the law, the plaintiff has an interest in the judgment. This interest, however, may
Kaims. Hist. L. Tr. 19, 20.
e 5. Rep. 506.
be released ; and the release will be a bar to the proceedings on an appeal.
These observations, drawn from so many separate sources, combine in the result, that a crime against the publick has its foundation in an injury against an indi. vidual. We shall see, in the progress of our investigation, that as, in the rude ages of society, the crime was too much overlooked ; so, in times more refined, there has been a disposition, too strong, to overlook the injury.
Concerning the standard, by which crimes should be measured in municipal law, there has been much diversity of sentiment among writers, even the wisest and most enlightened. The law of nature, it is admitted on all hands, measures crimes by the intention, and not by the event. Should a standard, different from that which has been established by unerring wisdom, be adopted by uninformed man? Should not that rule, which is observed by the law divine, be observed, in humble initation, by laws which are human? It is said, not; and it is said, that this difference must be accounted for by those peculiar attributes of the divine nature, which distinguish the dispensations of supreme wisdom from the proceedings of human tribunals. A being whose all-seeing eye observes the inmost recesses of the heart, and whose outstretched arm no flight or stratagem can elude or escape-such a being may consider and may punish every crime in exact proportion to the quantity of intrinsick guilt, which is contained in it. But with those to whom the trust and authority of human government is committed, the case is greatly different. Their power and their knowledge are limited by many imper
fections: speed may remove, artifice may cover the object of punishment from their view or their grasp: by them, therefore, crimes must be considered in proportion to the ease and security with which they are commit. ted or concealed, and not in strict proportion to their degrees of inherent criminality. Such, or nearly such, seem to be the sentiments of Mr. Paley."
The Marquis of Beccaria goes farther: he thinks him. self authorized to assert, that crimes are to be measured only by the injury done to society. They err, therefore, says he, who imagine that a crime is greater or less according to the intention of the person by whom it is committed; for this will depend on the actual impression of objects on the senses, and on the previous disposition of the mind; and both of these will vary in different persons, and even in the same person at different times, according to the succession of ideas, passions, and circumstances. Upon that system, it would be necessary to form, not only a particular code for every individual, but a new penal law for every crime. Men with the best intentions, do the greatest injury, and with the worst, the most essential services to society. That crimes are to be estimated by the injury done to society, adds he, is one of those palpable truths, which, though evi. dent to the meanest capacity, yet, by a combination of circumstances, are known only to a few thinking men, in every nation and in every age.
Sir William Blackstone, in one part of his Commentaries, seems to adopt these sentiments. All crimes,
f 2. Paley, 291. 292.
Bac. c. 7.8.