Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XIII.: OF CERTAIN SANGUINARY TRIBUNALS. - An Essay on Crimes and Punishments
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CHAPTER XIII.: OF CERTAIN SANGUINARY TRIBUNALS. - 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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OF CERTAIN SANGUINARY TRIBUNALS.
Is it credible, that there formerly existed a supreme tribunal more horrible than the Inquisition, and that this tribunal was established by Charlemagne? It was the judgment of Westphalia, otherwise called the Vhemic Court. The severity, or rather cruelty, of this court, went so far as to punish with death, every Saxon who broke his fast during Lent. The same law was also established in Franche-Comte, in the beginning of the seventeenth century. In the archives of a little place called St. Claude, situated in a remote corner of the most mountainous part of the county of Burgundy, are preserved the particulars of the sentence and verbal process of execution of a poor gentleman named Claude Guillon, who was beheaded on the 28th of July, 1629. Being reduced to the utmost poverty, and urged by the most intolerable hunger, he eat, on a fish-day, a morsel of horse flesh, which had been killed in a neighbouring field. This was his crime. He was found guilty of sacrilege. Had he been a rich man, and had spent two hundred crowns in a supper of sea-fish, suffering the poor to die of hunger, he would have been considered as a person fulfilling every duty. The following is a copy of his sentence: “Having seen all the papers of the process, and heard the opinions of the doctors learned in the law, we declare the said Claude Guillon to be truly attainted and convicted of having taken away part of the flesh of a horse, killed in the meadow of that town; of having caused the said flesh to be dressed, and of eating the same on Saturday the 31st of March,” etc.
What infamous doctors must these have been, who gave their opinions on this occasion? Was it among the Topinambous, or among the Hottentots, that these things happened? The Vhemic Court was yet more horrible. Delegates from this court were secretly spread over all Germany, taking informations unknown to the accused, who were condemned without being heard; and frequently, in want of an executioner, the youngest judge performed the office himself.* It was requisite, in order to be safe from the assassination of this court, to procure letters of exemption from the emperor; and even these were sometimes ineffectual. This chamber of assassins was not entirely abolished till the reign of Maximilian I. It ought to have been dissolved in the blood of its members. The Venetian Council of Ten was, in comparison with this, a court of mercy.
What shall we think of such horrid proceedings? Is it sufficient to bewail humanity? There were some cases that cried aloud for vengeance.
[* ] See the excellent abridgement of the chronological history and laws of Germany, an. 803.