In Rome1 one citi­zen was allo­wed to accuse ano­ther ; this was esta­bli­shed in the spi­rit of the repu­blic, where every citi­zen must have unli­mi­ted zeal for the public wel­fare, and where every citi­zen is sup­po­sed to hold all the rights of the home­land in his hands. Under the empe­rors they fol­lo­wed the maxims of the repu­blic, and right away they saw the appea­rance of a deadly kind of men : a band of infor­mers. Anyone who had many vices and many talents, a tho­roughly base soul, and an ambi­tious spi­rit, loo­ked for a cri­mi­nal whose condem­na­tion could please the prince : this was the path to honors and for­tune,2 some­thing we never see in our coun­try.

Today we have an admi­ra­ble law, which would have the prince who is esta­bli­shed to have the laws exe­cu­ted appoint an offi­cer in each tri­bu­nal to pro­se­cute all cri­mes in his name ; as a result, the func­tion of infor­mer is unk­nown here ; and if that public aven­ger were sus­pec­ted of abu­sing his minis­try, he would be for­ced to name his infor­mer.

In Plato’s Laws,3 those who fail to notify the magis­tra­tes, or to lend them aid, are to be puni­shed. Today that would not be appro­priate. The public sec­tor keeps watch for the citi­zens ; it acts, and they are tran­quil.

And in many other cities.

See in Tacitus the rewards granted to informers.

Book IX.