The Rationale of Punishment

Book II

Of Corporal Punishments

Chapter II


Section 3


I understand by mutilation, the extirpation of an external part of the human body, endowed with a distinct power of movement, or a specific function of which the loss is not necessarily followed by the loss of life; as the eyes, the tongue, the hands, &c.

The extirpation of the nose and of the ears is not properly called mutilation, because it is not upon the external part of these organs that the exercise of their functions depends, they protect and assist that exercise, but they do not exercise these functions. There is, therefore, a difference between that mutilation which causes a total loss of the organ and that which only destroys its envelope. The latter is only a disfigurement which may be partly repaired by art.

Everybody knows how frequently mutilations were formerly employed in the greater number of penal systems. There is no species of them which has not been practised in England, even in times sufficiently modern. The punishment of death might be commuted for that of mutilation under the Common Law. By a statute passed under Henry VIII, the offense of maliciously drawing blood in the palace, where the king resided, was punished by the loss of the right hand. By a statute of Elizabeth, the exportation of sheep was punished by the amputation of the left hand. Since that time, however, all these punishments have fallen into disuse, and mutilations may now be considered as banished from the penal code of Great Britain.

[RP, Book II, Chapter II §2] [RP, Book II, Chapter II, §4]