Let us now inquire, whether it be advantageous to society, to set a price on the head of a criminal, and so to make of every citizen an executioner? If the offender hath taken refuge in another state, the sovereign encourages his subjects to commit a crime, and to expose themselves to a just punishment; he insults that nation, and authorises the subjects to commit on their neighbours similar usurpations. If the criminal still remain in his own country, to set a price upon his head is the strongest proof of the weakness of the government. He who has strength to defend himself will not purchase the assistance of another. Besides, such an edict confounds all the ideas of virtue and morality, already too wavering in the mind of man. At one time treachery is punished by the laws, at another encouraged. With one hand the legislator strengthens the ties of kindred and friendship, and with the other rewards the violation of both. Always in contradiction with himself, now he invites the suspecting minds of men to mutual confidence, and now he plants distrust in every heart. To prevent one crime he gives birth to a thousand. Such are the expedients of weak nations, whose laws are like temporary repairs to a tottering fabric. On the contrary, as a nation becomes more enlightened, honesty and mutual confidence become more necessary, and are daily tending to unite with sound policy. Artifice, cabal, and obscure and indirect actions are more easily discovered, and the interest of the whole is better secured against the passions of the individual.
Even the times of ignorance, when private virtue was encouraged by public morality, may afford instruction and example to more enlightened ages, But laws which reward treason excite clandestine war and mutual distrust, and oppose that necessary union of morality and policy which is the foundation of happiness and universal peace.
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