VI.2 On the simplicity of criminal laws under the various governments

People are fore­ver saying that jus­tice should be dis­pen­sed eve­ryw­here the way it is in Turkey. Has the most igno­rant of all peo­ples thus seen cor­rectly the one thing on earth it is most impor­tant for men to know ?

If you exa­mine the for­ma­li­ties of jus­tice in terms of the trou­ble a citi­zen has get­ting his pro­perty back or obtai­ning satis­fac­tion for some offense, you will doubt­less find too many ; if you look at them in terms of the free­dom and secu­rity of citi­zens, you will often find too few ; and you will see that the dif­fi­culties, the expen­ses, the delays, and even the dan­gers of jus­tice are the price which each citi­zen pays for his free­dom.

In Turkey, where very lit­tle atten­tion is paid to the for­tune, life, or honor of the sub­jects, all dis­pu­tes are qui­ckly resol­ved one way or the other. The man­ner of ending them is of no impor­tance pro­vi­ded they are ended. The pasha, once infor­med, has a cane applied at his dis­cre­tion to the soles of the liti­gants’ feet and sends them home.

And it would be very dan­ge­rous for the liti­gants’ pas­sions to be admit­ted there : they sup­pose a bur­ning desire to be vin­di­ca­ted, a hatred, an action in the mind, an unflag­ging pur­suit. All of these must be avoi­ded in a govern­ment where no sen­ti­ment must be allo­wed but fear, and where eve­ry­thing leads sud­denly to revo­lu­tions that can­not be fore­seen. Everyone should unders­tand that the magis­trate must not hear of him, and that he owes his secu­rity solely to his effa­ce­ment.

But in mode­rate sta­tes, where the head of the least of citi­zens is impor­tant, he is depri­ved of his honor and pos­ses­sions only after a long exa­mi­na­tion, and his life not taken unless the home­land itself calls for it, which it never does without lea­ving him every pos­si­ble means of defen­ding it.

Thus, when a man makes him­self more abso­lute,1 his first thought is to sim­plify the laws. One begins, in that state, to be more struck by par­ti­cu­lar nega­ti­ves than by the free­dom of the sub­jects, which is of no inte­rest at all.

It is appa­rent that in repu­blics there must be at least as many for­ma­li­ties as in monar­chies. In both of these govern­ments they increase pro­por­tio­na­tely with the value ascri­bed to honor, for­tune, life, and the citi­zens’ free­dom.

Men are all equal in a repu­bli­can govern­ment, and they are equal in a des­po­tic govern­ment : in the first, because they are eve­ry­thing, in the second, because they are nothing.

Cæsar, Cromwell, and so many others.