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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/645

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THE TYRANNY OF THE STATE.

writers, and a full discussion of the subject here is unnecessary. Attention, however, may be called to the fact that a citizen who fails to observe the nice distinction laid down may find himself a vile criminal, with illegitimate children, because he failed, when the marriage ceremony was performed, to cross a river or step over a border line. This neglect of uniformity is a crime on the part of society toward its members that in this age of the world should not be tolerated.

Again, take the instance of a man accused by the state of crime who is innocent. All the power of the social body is exerted to make him out a criminal. He is put to enormous expense in the employment of counsel, the obtaining of evidence, and all the incidental expenses of a trial; his business may be broken up, and his hopes and happiness in life wrecked. Yet, even if he is proved innocent, the whole burden falls on him, for the state makes no compensation for mistakes. At the last session of the American Bar Association a resolution looking to the correction of this evil was presented and referred to a committee, and it is to be hoped that the influence of this body may not be without effect. The forms of verdicts should be modified so as to express fully and distinctly the guilt or innocence of the accused, and in cases where it is clear that the defendant is entirely without blame, he should be compensated for the wrong done him.

If the citizen is convicted of crime, what shall be said of his treatment? He is looked upon as one who has run contrary to the currents of society and involved it in disorder; yet, truly, he is rather an index of the civilization that holds him. He has fallen, not because he was worse than his fellows, but because bad influences surrounded his weaknesses. Between those who are out and those who are in there is often no more than the thickness of the prison doors. But the fact that a criminal who is caught is safely confined is deemed enough; his reform is a matter to which the state pays but small attention. How little has been done the records speak. In some places the unfortunates are bound in chain-gangs and hired out as slaves; in others, they are driven insane by solitary confinement; and, again, the young and innocent are herded with vicious age. For these wards of the state, for whose condition it is largely responsible, there is seldom any effort at improvement. Yet the thoughtful man will find in the study of criminals and their ways the courses of crime, and a partial solution of the problems of social disorder. There should be an opportunity given them to work out their freedom under conditions more hopeful than those found in the confinements of our prisons.

Almost all the States have provided in their Constitutions that no human authority shall interfere with the rights of conscience.