Benjamin CONSTANT

Lot 308
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Benjamin CONSTANT

L.A., 7 August 1827, to M. Teste, lawyer in Liège; 2 pages in-4, address.
Important letter on the death penalty and punishment of crime. The Belgian Member of Parliament whom his friend addressed to him was very interesting to him. "I have not tried to convert your fellow citizen to the death penalty. I am too little imbued & too little sure of my opinions to want to convert anyone. Indicate to me a way not to subject those to whom you do not want the neck cut to an arbitrariness more annoying than death, an arbitrariness exercised by the coarsest & most infamous class, the geoliers, an arbitrariness whose example is contagious, & which establishes the principle that there are circumstances in which a human creature can legitimately be handed over to the discretion of another, a principle that I deny, whatever the crime, because the discretion is the greatest of all crimes. Indicate to me a way of ensuring that the work imposed on convicts is not or no longer safe compared to that of the working class, which nevertheless exceeds human strength & then it is a more painful, or softer death, & then there is a reward for the crime, regardless of the scourge of work. Indicate this to me & I give in. In the meantime & with the very possible chance that our Ministers, under any pretext, or those who push them, will apply to me one day, the pain that I am almost alone in not rejecting, which will be very unfair, because I do not value men enough, to go beyond my legal mission, as a Deputy, & moreover I rely on the governments to bring themselves or overthrow themselves [....] I wish you a thousand wishes for your happiness if there is happiness in this world between governments & the governed"...
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