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The combat with crime is as old as civilization. Unceasing warfare is and ever has been waged between the law-maker and the law-breaker. The punishments inflicted upon criminals have been as various as the nations devising them, and have reflected with singular fidelity their temperaments or development. This is true of the death penalty which in many ages was the only recognized punishment for crimes either great or small. Each nation has had its own special method of inflicting it. One was satisfied simply to destroy life; another sought to intensify the natural fear of death by the added horrors of starvation or the withholding of fluid, by drowning, stoning, impaling or by exposing the wretched victims to the stings of insects or snakes. Burning at the stake was the favourite method of religious fanaticism. This flourished under the Inquisition everywhere, but notably in Spain where hecatombs perished by the autos-da-fé or "trials of faith" conducted with great ceremony often in the presence of the sovereign himself. Indeed, so terrible are the records of the ages that one turns with relief to the more humane methods of slowly advancing civilization,—the electric chair, the rope, the garotte, and even to that sanguinary "daughter of the Revolution," "la guillotine," the timely and merciful invention of Dr. Guillotin which substituted its swift and certain action for the barbarous hacking of blunt swords in the hands of brutal or unskilful executioners. Savage instinct, however, could not find full satisfaction even in cruel and violent death, but perforce must glut itself in preliminary tortures. Mankind has exhausted its fiendish ingenuity in the invention of hideous instruments for prolonging the sufferings of its victims. When we read to-day of the cold-blooded Chinese who condemns his criminal to be buried to the chin and left to be teased to death by flies; of the lust for blood of the Russian soldier who in brutal glee impales on his bayonet the writhing forms of captive children; of the recently revealed torture-chambers of the Yildiz Kiosk where Abdul Hamid wreaked his vengeance or squeezed millions of treasure from luckless foes; or of the Congo slave wounded and maimed to satisfy the greed for gold of an unscrupulous monarch;—we are inclined to think of them as savage survivals in "Darkest Africa" or in countries yet beyond the pale of western civilization. Yet it was only a few centuries ago that Spain "did to death" by unspeakable cruelties the gentle races of Mexico and Peru, and sapped her own splendid vitality in the woeful chambers of the Inquisition. Even as late as the end of the eighteenth century enlightened France was filling with the noblest and best of her land those oubliettes of which the very names are epitomes of woe: La Fin d'Aise, "The End of Ease;" La Boucherie, "The Shambles;" and La Fosse, "The Pit" or "Grave;" in the foul depths of which the victim stood waist deep in water unable to rest or sleep without drowning. Buoyed up by hope of release, some endured this torture of "La Fosse" for fifteen days; but that was nature's limit. None ever survived it longer.

Detalhes do Produto

    • Ano de Edição: 2015
    • Ano:  2015
    • País de Produção: Canada
    • Código de Barras:  2000971609910
    • ISBN:  9781465605634

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