Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/666

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
650
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

liche Frage," or the painful questioning. In this code of explicit directions reference is made to the pictures in the appendix, showing all the authorized apparatus for torture. They are drawn, lettered, and explained with the exactness of a patent drawing, and were not to be varied from in the least detail by the judicial operators. This treatise begins with the fundamental definition: "Torture is a lawful means of compulsion to bring to confession a denying malefactor, who, in the absence of full proof, has been strongly accused—or perchance to clear him from a burden of suspicion and accusation." This is paraphrased in the Latin note by saying that torture is a subsidiary means of tearing out the truth (eruendæ, veritatem).

Part II takes up the whole calendar of crimes, arranged in forty-eight distinct classes, giving to each a brief separate treatise combining principles, law, exceptions, penalties, and questions to be used in the trial. More than three fourths of these chapters specially prescribe torture to make the accused convict himself. From blasphemy, the greatest crime in the list, down to the most trivial, a suspected person could in nearly every case be visited with deathly torment upon mere suspicion.

Human progress exhibits no contrast more surprising than is seen between the mercifulness of to-day and the cruelty of the past. What do we now observe as proofs that mankind does not now approve nor enjoy the bodily suffering of fellow-creatures? Human slavery largely abolished, with the stocks and whipping post; cruel punishments prohibited by the Constitution; capital punishment done away in various sections; painless execution introduced; all minor penalties reduced to fines and restraint of liberty, with good sanitation of prisons; anæsthetic medical treatment everywhere in use; corporal punishment in schools becoming unfashionable; humane societies interfering to prevent ill treatment of children and dumb beasts; and, especially, we see prisoners on trial permitted to sit unfettered and at ease, attended by weeping relatives to excite sympathy; allowed unequal advantages over the prosecution in the selection of a jury; given the benefit of every doubt, often of the most fictitious; furnished all opportunities for acquittal which money and dishonest counsel can procure; allowed to testify in their own behalf; and never required to give an answer that would tend to criminate themselves.

In contrast with this picture, take the manner of conducting trials under the elaborate rules laid down in the Theresian code. A man accused of felony, such as arson, sedition, sorcery, or poisoning, must be arrested, jailed, and brought to trial. If two or more so-called witnesses made oath that they believed him guilty, though no positive proof could be found, the court decreed it a casus torturæ, a proper case for torture, and proceeded to apply some pre-