The Rationale of Punishment

Book II

Of Corporal Punishments

Chapter II


Section 2


To disable an organ is either to suspend or destroy its use without destroying the organ itself.

It is not necessary here to enumerate all the organs, nor all the methods by which they may be rendered useless. We have already seen that it would not be useful to have recourse to a great variety of afflictive punishments, and that there would be many inconveniences in so doing. If we were to follow the law of retaliation, the catalogue of possible punishments would be the same as that of the possible offenses of this kind.

I. The visual organ.---The use of which may be suspended by chymical applications, or by mechanical means, as with a mask or bandage. The visual faculty may also be destroyed by chymical or mechanical means.

No jurisprudence in Europe has made use of this punishment. It has heretofore been employed at Constantinople, under the Greek emperors, less as a punishment, it is true, than as a politic method of rendering a prince incapable of reigning. The operation consisted in passing a red hot plate of metal before the eyes.

II. The organ of hearing.---This faculty may be destroyed by destroying the tympanum. A temporary deafness may be produced by filling the passage of the ears with wax. As a legal punishment, I know of no instance of its use.

III. The organ of speech.---Gagging has more often been employed as a means of precaution against certain delinquents, rather than as a method of punishment General Lally was sent to his punishment with a gag in his mouth; and this odious precaution perhaps only served to turn public opinion against his judges, when his character was re-established. It has sometimes been employed in military prisons. It has the merit of analogy, when the offense consists in the abuse of the faculty of speech.

Gagging is sometimes performed by fixing a wedge between the jaws, which are rendered immoveable: sometimes by forcing a ball into the mouth, &c.

IV. The hands and feet.---I shall not speak of the various methods by which these members may be rendered for ever useless. If it were necessary to be done, it would not be difficult to accomplish.

Handcuffs are rings of metal, into which the wrists are thrust, and which are connected together with a bar or chain. This apparatus completely hinders a certain number of movements and might be employed so as to prevent them all.

Fetters are rings of metal, into which the legs are fixed, united in the same manner by a chain or bar, according to the species of restraint which it is desired to produce. Handcuffs and fetters are often employed conjointly. Universal use is made of these two methods, sometimes as a punishment, properly so called, but more frequently to prevent the escape of a prisoner.

The pillory is a plank fixed horizontally upon a pivot, on which it turns, and in which plank there are openings, into which the head and the hands of the individual are put, that he may be exposed to the multitude. I say to the gaze of the multitude---such is the intention of the law; but it not unfrequently happens, that persons so exposed are exposed to the outrages of the populace, to which they are thus delivered up without defence, and then the punishment changes its nature;---its severity depends upon the caprice of a crowd of butchers. The victim---for such he then becomes---covered with filth, his countenance bruised and bloody, his teeth broken, his eyes puffed up and closed, no longer can be recognized. The police, at least in England, used to see this disorder, nor seek to restrain it, and perhaps would have been unable to restrain it. A simple iron trellis, in the form of a cage, placed around the pillory, would however, suffice for stopping at least all those missiles which might inflict any dangerous blows upon the body.

The Carcan, a kind of portable pillory, is a species of punishment which has been used in many countries, and very frequently in China, it consists of a wooden collar, placed horizontally on the shoulders, which the delinquent is obliged to carry without relaxation for a longer or shorter time.

[RP, Book II, Chapter II §1] [RP, Book II, Chapter II, §3]