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Lesson 14

Crime and Punishment

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If we look into history we shall find that laws, which are, or ought to be, conventions between men in a state of freedom, have been, for the most part the work of the passions of a few, or the consequences of a fortuitous or temporary necessity.

Observe that by justice I understand nothing more than that bond which is necessary to keep the interest of individuals united, without which men would return to their original state of barbarity. All punishments which exceed the necessity of preserving this bond are in their nature unjust.

The end of punishment, therefore, is no other than to prevent the criminal from doing further injury to society, and to prevent others from committing the like offence. Such punishments, therefore, and such a mode of inflicting them, ought to be chosen, as will make the strongest and most lasting impressions on the minds of others, with the least torment to the body of the criminal.

The torture of a criminal during the course of his trial is a cruelty consecrated by custom in most nations. It is used with an intent either to make him confess his crime, or to explain some contradiction into which he had been led during his examination, or discover his accomplices, or for some kind of metaphysical and incomprehensible purgation of infamy, or, finally, in order to discover other crimes of which he is not accused, but of which he may be guilty.

No man can be judged a criminal until he be found guilty; nor can society take from him the public protection until it have been proved that he has violated the conditions on which it was granted. What right, then, but that of power, can authorise the punishment of a citizen so long as there remains any doubt of his guilt? This dilemma is frequent. Either he is guilty, or not guilty. If guilty, he should only suffer the punishment ordained by the laws, and torture becomes useless, as his confession is unnecessary. If he be not guilty, you torture the innocent; for, in the eye of the law, every man is innocent whose crime has not been proved.

Crimes are more effectually prevented by the certainty than the severity of punishment.

In proportion as punishments become more cruel, the minds of men, as a fluid rises to the same height with that which surrounds it, grow hardened and insensible; and the force of the passions still continuing in the space of an hundred years the wheel terrifies no more than formerly the prison. That a punishment may produce the effect required, it is sufficient that the evil it occasions should exceed the good expected from the crime, including in the calculation the certainty of the punishment, and the privation of the expected advantage. All severity beyond this is superfluous, and therefore tyrannical.

The death penalty is pernicious to society, from the example of barbarity it affords. If the passions, or the necessity of war, have taught men to shed the blood of their fellow creatures, the laws, which are intended to moderate the ferocity of mankind, should not increase it by examples of barbarity, the more horrible as this punishment is usually attended with formal pageantry. Is it not absurd, that the laws, which detest and punish homicide, should, in order to prevent murder, publicly commit murder themselves?

It is better to prevent crimes than to punish them. This is the fundamental principle of good legislation, which is the art of conducting men to the maximum of happiness, and to the minimum of misery, if we may apply this mathematical expression to the good and evil of life....

Would you prevent crimes? Let the laws be clear and simple, let the entire force of the nation be united in their defence, let them be intended rather to favour every individual than any particular classes of men; let the laws be feared, and the laws only. The fear of the laws is salutary, but the fear of men is a fruitful and fatal source of crimes.

Source: "An Essay on Crimes and Punishments" by Cesare Beccaria, Internet Modern History Sourcebook

Vocabulary
  1. law - закон; право
  2. convention - споразумение, спогодба
  3. consequence - последствие, последица (обикн. pl.)
  4. fortuitous - случаен, непредвиден
  5. necessity - необходимост, нужда
  6. justice - справедливост, правда
  7. bond - връзка, спойка
  8. united - обединен; единен
  9. barbarity - варварство
  10. punishment - наказание; наказване
  11. to exceed - превишавам, надвишавам, надхвърлям
  12. unjust - несправедлив
  13. criminal - престъпник
  14. injury - вреда, щета
  15. to commit (-tt-) - извършвам (грешка, престъпление)
  16. offence - нарушение 2. (юр.) престъпление
  17. to inflict - (юр.) налагам (наказание)
  18. torment - мъка, мъчение, изтезание
  19. torture - мъчение, изтезание
  20. trial - процес
  21. cruelty - жестокост
  22. to consecrate - освещавам, утвърждавам
  23. intent - намерение, цел; стремеж
  24. to confess (to) a crime - признавам (си) престъпление
  25. contradiction - противоречие
  26. examination - следствие, разпит
  27. accomplice - (юр.) съучастник (в престъпление и пр.)
  28. incomprehensible - неразбираем, непонятен
  29. purgation - 1. пречистване; 2. (рел.) очистение
  30. infamy - позорно поведение/действие/деяние
  31. crime - престъпление
  32. to accuse - обвинявам, виня
  33. guilty - виновен
  34. to grant - давам (официално), разрешавам
  35. confession - (само)признание
  36. innocent - невинен
  37. certainty - сигурност, неминуемост, неизбежност
  38. severity - строгост, суровост
  39. in proportion - съразмерен, съответстващ
  40. to harden - закоравявам, ставам груб
  41. insensible - нечувствителен
  42. formerly - някога, в миналото
  43. to occasion - давам повод/ставам причина
  44. superfluous - излишен, ненужен
  45. death penalty - смъртно наказание
  46. pernicious - гибелен, вреден
  47. to shed - лея, проливам (сълзи); проливам (кръв)
  48. ferocity - свирепост, жестокост
  49. mankind - човечеството, човешкият род
  50. to be attended with/by - свързан съм с (опастност, трудности и пр.)
  51. pageantry - блестящо зрелище; грандиозност
  52. to detest - мразя (силно), презирам, отвращавам се от
  53. homicide - 1. убиец; 2. убийство
  54. murder - убийство (предумишлено)
  55. legislation - законодателство
  56. to conduct - водя, ръководя; провеждам
  57. misery - (и pl.) мъка, нещастие, страдание
  58. to favour - спомогам, насърчавам
  59. salutary - полезен, благотворен
  60. fruitful - плодороден, плодоносен

  Exceed or Accede


Questions for discussion

  • What do you think is the worst cime a person could commit? Why?
  • Do you think that punishment for violent crimes should be the same for juveniles and adults? Why/why not?
  • Is prison an effective puishment? (Why? or Why not?)
  • Does prison help rehabilitate criminals? (Should it?)
  • What's your opinion about the death penalty?
  • What makes some people become criminals? Is it poverty, upbringing, lack of education, unemployment or something else?
  • Why do you think crime is more prevalent in some societies than in others?

Test it out!

Fill the gaps in the sentences, using the words below:

guilty, ferocity, custom, salutary, pernicious, unjust, barbarity, homicide, superfluous, crimes, punishment, certainty, torment

1. Observe that by justice I understand nothing more than that bond which is necessary to keep the interest of individuals united, without which men would return to their original state of .
2. All punishments which exceed the necessity of preserving this bond are in their nature .
3. The end of therefore, is no other than to prevent the criminal from doing further injury to society, and to prevent others from committing the like offence.
4. Such punishments, therefore, and such a mode of inflicting them, ought to be chosen, as will make the strongest and most lasting impressions on the minds of others, with the least to the body of the criminal.
5. The torture of a criminal during the course of his trial is a cruelty consecrated by in most nations.
6. No man can be judged a criminal until he be found ; nor can society take from him the public protection until it have been proved that he has violated the conditions on which it was granted.
7. Crimes are more effectually prevented by the than the severity of punishment.
8. All severity beyond this is and therefore tyrannical.
9. The death penalty is to society, from the example of barbarity it affords.
10. The laws, which are intended to moderate the of mankind, should not increase it by examples of barbarity.
11. Is it not absurd, that the laws, which detest and punish , should, in order to prevent murder, publicly commit murder themselves?
12. It is better to prevent than to punish them.
13. The fear of the laws is , but the fear of men is a fruitful and fatal source of crimes.




Highwaymen in 17th and 18th Century England

Houndslow Heath was, for 100 years, between the 17th and 18th centuries, the most dangerous place in England. Across the Heath ran the Bath and Exeter roads used by wealthy visitors to the West country resorts and courtiers returning to Windsor. These travellers provided rich pickings for highwaymen.

Dick Turpin is one of the best remembered highwaymen who operated in this area, although he was often to be found in North London, Essex and Yorkshire. Turpin frequently used as his base the Old Swan Inn at Wroughton-on-the-Green in Buckinghamshire. Turpin was a Yorkshireman, born in York and was later hanged and buried there in 1739. His grave can be seen in the churchyard of St. Denys and St. George in York. Turpin's famous ride from London to York almost certainly was not made by him but by another highwayman, 'Swift Nicks' Nevison during the reign of Charles 2nd. Nevison also ended up on the gallows at York and the leg-irons which held him while in prison there before his execution can be seen in York Castle Museum.

The most gallant of the Heath's highwaymen was French-born Claude Duval. He was idolised by the ladies he robbed as he made much use of his 'gallic charm'. His manners it seems were impeccable as far as his lady victims were concerned! He once insisted on dancing with one of his victims after robbing her husband of Ј100! Duval was hanged in 1670 and buried at Convent Garden. His grave was marked (now destroyed) by a stone with the following epitaph:- "Here lies Duval, if male thou art, look to your purse, if female to thy heart."

Most of the highwaymen were not like Duval, they were really no more than 'thugs', but one exception was Twysden, Bishop of Raphoe who was killed carrying out a robbery on the Heath.

Three brothers, Harry, Tom and Dick Dunsdon were famous 18th century highwaymen in Oxfordshire. One of my ancestors, Sampson Pratley, fought one of these brothers in the Royal Oak Inn in Field Assarts. The fight was really a wager to see who was the strongest and the prize was to be a sack of potatoes for the winner. Sampson Pratley won, but never got his potatoes as two of the brothers were caught shortly afterwards and hanged at Gloucester in 1784. Their bodies were brought back to Shipton-under-Wychwood and gibbeted from an oak tree. Dick Dunsdon bled to death when Tom and Harry had to cut off one of his arms to free his hand which was trapped in a door-shutter as they were attempting to rob a house.

Few highwaymen survived beyond their early twenties - they were usually betrayed for 'blood money' or were captured through their own stupidity. (More about the highwaymen)

highwayman (pl. -men) - разбойник, бандит (на кон)
victim - жертва
thug - главорез, убиец, гангстер
wager - бас, облог
robbery - грабеж, обир

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