Philosophical liberty consists in the exer­cise of one’s will, or at least (if we are to speak of all sys­tems) in the opi­nion one has that he is exer­ci­sing his will. Political liberty consists in secu­rity, or at least in the opi­nion one has of one’s secu­rity.

This secu­rity is never more threa­te­ned than in public or pri­vate accu­sa­tions. It is the­re­fore on the qua­lity of the cri­mi­nal laws that the citi­zen’s free­dom prin­ci­pally depends.

The cri­mi­nal laws have not been per­fec­ted all at once. Even in the pla­ces where free­dom has most been sought, it has not always been found. Aristotle1 tells us that in Cumæ the accu­ser’s rela­ti­ves could be wit­nes­ses. Under the kings of Rome the law was so imper­fect that Servius Tullius pro­noun­ced the sen­tence against the chil­dren of Ancus Martius, accu­sed of the assas­si­na­ting his father-in-law the king.2 Under the first Frankish kings, Clotaire made a law3 that the accu­sed can­not be condem­ned without being heard, which pro­ves a contrary prac­tice in some par­ti­cu­lar case or among some bar­ba­rian peo­ple. It was Charondas who intro­du­ced trials for false tes­ti­mony.4 When the inno­cence of citi­zens is not assu­red, liberty is not assu­red either.

The know­ledge that has been acqui­red in some coun­try, and which will be acqui­red in others, concer­ning the surest rules that can be applied in cri­mi­nal trials will be more impor­tant to the human race than any­thing on earth.

It is only on the prac­tice of this know­ledge that liberty can be based ; and in a state which had the best pos­si­ble laws in this res­pect, a man who is tried and is to be han­ged the next day would be more free than a pasha is in Turkey.

Politics, book II.

Tarquinius Priscus. See Dionysius of Halicarnassus, book IV.

In the year 560.

Aristote, Politics, book II, ch. xii ; he issued his laws at Thurium in the eight-fourth olympiade.