Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAP. XVII.: Of the Rack. - Complete Works, vol. 1 The Spirit of Laws
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CHAP. XVII.: Of the Rack. - Charles Louis de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu, Complete Works, vol. 1 The Spirit of Laws 
The Complete Works of M. de Montesquieu (London: T. Evans, 1777), 4 vols. Vol. 1.
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Of the Rack.
THE wickedness of mankind makes it necessary for the laws to suppose them better than they really are. Hence the deposition of two witnesses is sufficient in the punishment of all crimes. The law believes them, as if they spoke by the mouth of truth. Thus we judge that every child conceived in wedlock is legitimate; the law having a confidence in the mother, as if she were chastity itself. But the use of the rack against criminals cannot be defended on a like plea of necessity.
We have before us the example of a nation, blessed with an excellent civil government§ , where, without any inconveniency, the practice of racking criminals is rejected. It is not, therefore, in its own nature, necessary¶ .
So many men of learning and genius have written against the custom of torturing criminals, that after them I durst not presume to meddle with the subject. I was going to say, that it might suit despotic states, where whatever inspires fear is the properest spring of government; I was going to say, that the slaves among the Greeks and Romans — But nature cries out aloud, and asserts her rights.
[§ ]The English.
[¶ ]The citizens of Athens could not be put to the rack (Lysias, orat. in Agorot.) unless it was for high-treason. The torture was used within thirty days after condemnation. (Curius Fortunatus, Rhetor. Schol. lib. 2.) There was no preparatory torture. In regard to the Romans, the 3d and 4th law ad leg. Jul. majest. shew, that birth, dignity, and the military profession, exempted people from the rack, except in cases of high-treason. See the prudent restrictions of this practice made by the laws of the Visigoths.