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An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation; Bentham, Jeremy
1 paragraph found.
Chapter XIV, Of the Proportion between Punishments and Offences
Note:
It is a well-known adage, though it is to be hoped not a true one, that every man has his price. It is commonly meant of a man's virtue. This saying, though in a very different sense, was strictly verified by some of the Anglo-Saxon laws: by which a fixed price was set, not upon a man's virtue indeed, but upon his life: that of the sovereign himself among the rest. For 200 shillings you might have killed a peasant: for six times as much, a nobleman: for six-and-thirty times as much you might have killed the king. * A king in those days was worth exactly 7,200 shillings. If then the heir to the throne, for example, grew weary of waiting for it, he had a secure and legal way of gratifying his impatience: he had but to kill the king with one hand, and pay himself with the other, and all was right. An earl Godwin, or a duke Streon, could have bought the lives of a whole dynasty. It is plain, that if ever a king in those days died in his bed, he must have had something else, besides this law, to thank for it. This being the production of a remote and barbarous age, the absurdity of it is presently recognised: but, upon examination, it would be found, that the freshest laws of the most civilised nations are continually falling into the same error. ** This, in short, is the ease wheresoever the punishment is fixed while the profit of delinquency is indefinite: or, to speak more precisely, where the punishment is limited to such a mark, that the profit of delinquency may reach beyond it.

* Wilkins Leg. Anglo-Sax. p, 71, 72. See Hume, Vol. 1. App. 1. p. 219.

** See in particular the English Statue laws throughout, Bonaparte's Penal Code, and the recently enacted or not enacted Spanish Penal Code.— Note by the Author, July 1822.