Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XI.: ON DEATH WARRANTS. - An Essay on Crimes and Punishments
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CHAPTER XI.: ON DEATH WARRANTS. - Cesare Bonesana di Beccaria, An Essay on Crimes and Punishments 
An Essay on Crimes and Punishments. By the Marquis Beccaria of Milan. With a Commentary by M. de Voltaire. A New Edition Corrected. (Albany: W.C. Little & Co., 1872).
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ON DEATH WARRANTS.
Must we go to the end of the world, must we have recourse to the laws of China, to learn how frugal we ought to be of human blood? It is now more than four thousand years that the tribunals of that empire have existed; and it is also more than four thousand years that the meanest subject, at the extremity of the empire, hath not been executed without first transmitting his case to the emperor, who causes it to be thrice examined by one of his tribunals; after which he signs the death warrant, alters the sentence, or entirely acquits.
But it is unnecessary to travel so far for examples of this nature; Europe will abundantly supply us. In England, no criminal is put to death, whose death warrant is not signed by the king. It is also practised in Germany, and in most parts of the north. Such likewise was formerly the custom in France, and such it ought to be in all polished nations. A sentence, at a distance from the throne, may be dictated by cabal, prejudice, or ignorance. Such little intrigues are unknown to monarchs, who are continually surrounded by great objects. The members of the supreme council are more enlightened, less liable to prejudice, and better qualified than a provincial judge, to determine whether the state require severe punishments. In short, when inferior courts have judged according to the letter of the law, which possibly may be rigorous, the council mitigates the sentence according to the true spirit of all laws, which teaches, never to sacrifice a man, but in evident necessity.