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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/669

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THE EUROPEAN LAW OF TORTURE.

progress had been powerless to beat down. Grecian culture and beauty did not care to assuage one pain. The magnanimity of Roman power did not hold out one merciful reform toward the suspected offender. Cicero wrote against the system, but all in vain.

The young nobility and students of Europe, flocking to great universities like Salerno in the middle ages, and learning from imported Arabic professors from milder Asia, do not seem to have acquired any noble horror of human cruelty. New religious sects arose and competed for public favor, but all were more ready to use torture than to condemn it. The leading minds of Europe were full of the New Testament, but they did not find legal torture referred to therein. Only the command not to suffer a witch to live seemed to fit the case,

A theory is greatly needed to harmonize these incongruous facts—a bright, clear, comprehensive, optimistic theory, creditable alike to humanity and the forces which guide human development. But such an explanation is not readily found. In default of a broad and able-bodied theory, fitted to carry us over all difficulties, one is left floundering among some unpleasant reflections. All races may have risen from barbarism. Before barbarism they may—just possibly—have come up from a still more brutish state. Yet this instinct of enjoying the torture of others can hardly be called a survival of brutishness, since animals do not seem to consciously practice cruelty; it is rather a distinguishing trait of mankind.

This element of savagery is a most persistent and incorrigible offender in the happy family of our virtues. How it has defied culture, development, moral training! In theory all advancing races should properly have this Canada thistle of our moral field pretty well eradicated by this time by the strong hand of social and religious development. But when it has been well dug out, burned up, and killed very dead, the weary reformer, resting on his hoe, sees the thorny shoots of human cruelty here and there pushing boldly up in new places, fresh from the ancient seeds of inherited brutality that still lurk in the soil. Yet he cheerfully begins anew, and attacks the inexhaustible evil with never-tiring zeal.

It is also depressing to reflect that all men have been savages in infancy; that children pass through the ascending grades of mere animal life; that each young pupil, rightly observed, has been a sample of slow or rapid evolution through the stages of cave-dweller, nomad, and barbarian, to the half-civilized or even a higher grade. The childhood of races reflects the development. of individuals. In the rapid march of the infant mind there comes a time when it gives pleasure to see and produce suffering.