Who wrote the essay on crime and punishment

Cesare Beccaria received his primary education at a Jesuit school in Parma, Italy. He would later describe his early education as "fanatical" and oppressive of "the development of human feelings. Following his education at the Jesuit school, Beccaria attended the University of Pavia, where he received a law degree in Even in his early life, Cesare Beccaria was prone to mood swings.

He tended to vacillate between fits of anger and bursts of enthusiasm, often followed by periods of depression and lethargy. He was shy in social settings, but cherished his relationships with friends and family. In Beccaria extended his family by proposing to Teresa Blasco. Teresa was just 16 years old, and her father strongly objected to the engagement.

A year later, the couple eloped. Also among those people that Beccaria held particularly dear were his friends Pietro and Alessandro Verri. To this effect, academy members encouraged Beccaria to read French and British writings on the Enlightenment, and to take a stab at writing himself. In actuality, the treatise was extremely well-received. Catherine the Great publicly endorsed it, while thousands of miles away in the United States, founding fathers Thomas Jefferson and John Adams quoted it. Once it was clear that the government approved of his essay, Beccaria republished it, this time crediting himself as the author.

According to Beccaria -- and most classical theorists -- free will enables people to make choices. Beccaria believed that people have a rational manner and apply it toward making choices that will help them achieve their own personal gratification.


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But, because people act out of self-interest and their interest sometimes conflicts with societal laws, they commit crimes. The principle of manipulability refers to the predictable ways in which people act out of rational self-interest and might therefore be dissuaded from committing crimes if the punishment outweighs the benefits of the crime, rendering the crime an illogical choice.

In "On Crimes and Punishments," Beccaria identified a pressing need to reform the criminal justice system, citing the then-present system as barbaric and antiquated. He went on to discuss how specific laws should be determined, who should make them, what they should be like and whom they should benefit. He emphasized the need for adequate but just punishment, and went so far as to explain how the system should define the appropriate punishment for each type of crime.

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Unlike few documents before it, "On Crimes and Punishments" sought to protect the rights of criminals as well as the rights of their victims. The thorough treatise included a discussion of crime-prevention strategies. In addition to his fascination with criminal law, Cesare Beccaria was still drawn to the field of economics.

For the next two years, he also served as a lecturer there. Based on these lectures, Beccaria created an economic analysis entitled "Elements of Public Economy. This public position enabled him to strive for the same goal -- economic reform -- that he had set with "the academy of fists" so many years ago. While in office, Beccaria focused largely on the issues of public education and labor relations. It is an admirable law which ordains, that every man shall be tried by his peers; for when life, liberty and fortune are in question, the sentiments, which a difference of rank and fortune inspire, should be silent; that superiority with which the fortunate look upon the unfortunate, and that Edition: current; Page: [ 54 ] envy with which the inferior regard their superiors, should have no influence.

But when the crime is an offence against a fellow-subject, one half of the judges should be peers to the accused, and the other peers to the person offended. So that all private interest, which, in spite of ourselves, modifies the appearance of objects, even in the eyes of the most equitable, is counteracted, and nothing remains to turn aside the direction of truth and the laws. It is also just, that the accused should have the liberty of excluding a certain number of his judges.

Where this liberty is enjoyed for a long time, without any instance to the contrary, the criminal seems to condemn himself. I shall not enter into particulars. There may be some persons who expect that I should say all that can be said upon this subject; to such, what I have already written must be unintelligible.

Secret accusations are a manifest abuse, but consecrated by custom in many nations, where, from the weakness of the government, they are necessary. This custom makes men false and treacherous. Whoever suspects another to be an informer, beholds in him an enemy; and, from thence, mankind are accustomed to disguise their real sentiments; and from the habit of concealing them from others, they at last even hide them from themselves.

Unhappy are those, who have arrived at this point! Without any certain and fixed principles to guide them, they fluctuate in the vast sea of opinion, and are busied only in escaping the monsters which surround them; to those, the present is always embittered by the uncertainty of the future; deprived of the pleasures of tranquillity and security, some fleeting moments of happiness, scattered thinly through their wretched lives, console them for the misery of existing.

Shall we, amongst such men, find Edition: current; Page: [ 56 ] intrepid soldiers to defend their king and country? Amongst such men shall we find incorruptible magistrates, who, with the spirit of freedom and patriotic eloquence, will support and explain the true interest of their sovereign; who, with the tributes, offer up at the throne the love and blessing of the people, and thus bestow on the palaces of the great, and the humble cottage, peace and security; and to the industrious a prospect of bettering their lot, that useful ferment and vital principle of states?

Who can defend himself from calumny, armed with that impenetrable shield of tyranny, secrecy?

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What a miserable government must that be, where the sovereign suspects an enemy in every subject, and, to secure the tranquillity of the public, is obliged to sacrifice the repose of every individual? By what arguments is it pretended, that secret accusations may be justified? The public safety, say they, and the security and maintenance of the established form of government.

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But what a strange constitution is that, where the government, which hath in its favour not only power but opinion, still more efficacious, yet fears its own subjects? The indemnity of the informer. Do not the laws defend him sufficiently; and are there subjects more powerful than the laws?

The Edition: current; Page: [ 57 ] necessity of protecting the informer from infamy. When secret calumny is authorised, and punished only when public. The nature of the crime. If actions, indifferent in themselves, or even useful to the public, were called crimes, both the accusation and the trial could never be too secret. But can there be any crime, committed against the public, which ought not to be publicly punished? I respect all governments; and I speak not of any one in particular. Such may sometimes be the nature of circumstances, that when abuses are inherent in the constitution, it may be imagined, that to rectify them, would be to destroy the constitution itself.

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But were I to dictate new laws in a remote corner of the universe, the good of posterity, ever present to my mind, would hold back my trembling hand, and prevent me from authorising secret accusations. Public accusations, says Montesquieu, are more conformable to the nature of a republic, where zeal for the public good is the principal passion of a citizen, than of a monarchy, in which, as this sentiment is very feeble, from the nature of the government, the best establishment is that of commissioners, who, in the name of the public, accuse the infractors of the laws. But in all governments as well in a republic as in a monarchy, Edition: current; Page: [ 58 ] the punishment, due to the crime of which one accuses another, ought to be inflicted on the informer.

The torture of a criminal, during the course of his trial, is a cruelty, consecrated by custom in most nations. It is used with an intent either to make him confess his crime, or explain some contradictions, into which he had been led during his examination; or discover his accomplices; or for some kind of metaphysical and incomprehensible purgation of infamy; or, finally, in order to discover other crimes, of which he is not accused, but of which he may be guilty.

No man can be judged a criminal until he be found guilty; nor can society take from him the public protection, until it have been proved that he has violated the conditions on which it was granted. What right, then, but that of power, can authorise the punishment of a citizen, so long Edition: current; Page: [ 59 ] as there remains any doubt of his guilt? The dilemma is frequent.


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Either he is guilty, or not guilty. If guilty, he should only suffer the punishment ordained by the laws, and torture becomes useless, as his confession is unnecessary. If he be not guilty, you torture the innocent; for, in the eye of the law, every man is innocent, whose crime has not been proved.

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Besides, it is confounding all relations, to expect that a man should be both the accuser and accused; and that pain should be the test of truth, as if truth resided in the muscles and fibres of a wretch in torture. By this method, the robust will escape, and the feeble be condemned. These are the inconveniencies of this pretended test of truth, worthy only of a cannibal; and which the Romans, in many respects barbarous, and whose savage virtue has been too much admired, reserved for the slaves alone. What is the political intention of punishments?

To terrify, and to be an example to others. Is this intention answered, by thus privately torturing the guilty and the innocent? It is doubtless of importance, that no crime should remain unpunished; but it is useless to make a public example of the author of a crime hid in darkness. A crime already committed, and for which there can be no remedy, can only be punished by a Edition: current; Page: [ 60 ] political society, with an intention that no hopes of impunity should induce others to commit the same.

There is another ridiculous motive for torture, namely, to purge a man from infamy.