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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/665

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THE EUROPEAN LAW OF TORTURE.

delve among its dry bones of ancient delusion and wrong. It reveals a wide field of ideas which not long ago ruled the "civilized" world, but now are forever put away. In fact, it exhibits with photographic accuracy the Inquisition of central Europe.

The prevalent idea of torture seems to be about as follows: That two or three centuries ago a wicked portion of a priesthood set up the Inquisition as a means of religious persecution, which, after all, was probably not nearly as bad as reported. Another class, somewhat better informed, can discourse at large of the Spanish and German Inquisitions, and describe their ghastly relics still shown in museums; while others, again, full of ignorant zeal, will denounce the whole subject as a base slander on human nature.

But comparatively few now realize the full truth that in various lands torture was the established method of authority to force prisoners to convict themselves of every sort of crime for more than a thousand years before the Holy Office was set up by churchmen; that it still survived in parts of Europe as an authorized court process for generations after they had abolished the Holy Office; and that the much-advertised doings of the Inquisition were but a few rough waves of that bloody ocean of wrong which flowed over Europe from the time of Herodotus down to the nineteenth century.

Books of reference give the facts mildly, softened from old authors inaccessible to the many. But one must beware of history written, perhaps, for partisan purposes or with sectarian bias. What is wanted to-day is scientific proof, impartial and unimpeachable. For this is a delicate matter of family history. In examining into the mental and moral condition of ancestors only three or four generations back, let us beware of hearsay evidence. But we shall be justified in the inquiry if we can obtain their own testimony and make them convict themselves in their own favorite style.

For this purpose the Constitutio Criminalis Theresiana, or criminal code of Austria and Hungary, put forth in 1769 under the imperial edict of Maria Theresa toward the close of her reign, outweighs a whole library of recent suppositions. This book contains three hundred and fifty folio pages, with one hundred and four articles or chapters arranged in two parts, prefaced by a lofty proclamation over her Majesty's hand and seal, ordaining and enacting it as the lawful code of her domain.

Part I is a general commentary upon crime and criminal process, beginning with this benevolent and modern principle: "The punishment of criminals is designed chiefly for the reformation of evil-doers." The subject of torture is reached in Article 38, where eleven large pages are devoted to an exhaustive treatise on its principles and practice. It is called in the text "dieĀ pein-