Legislating the New Death Penalty

Paul Friedland

in Seeing Justice Done

Published in print June 2012 | ISBN: 9780199592692
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191741852 | DOI:
Legislating the New Death Penalty

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  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)


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By the Revolution, public opinion universally accepted the idea that the death penalty should be used rarely, that it should involve as little pain as possible, and that the bulk of crimes should be punished by incarceration or forced labor. There remained some disagreement, however, as to whether the death penalty should be applied for all egregious crimes, or whether it should be used only as a last resort, when the state itself was in danger. Abandoning the old regime's spectacle of pain, representatives of the National Assembly like Guillotin insisted on humane and painless punishments. The legislative reforms which they enacted would put in place a new kind of death penalty, one which, although it was meant to be vaguely deterrent and therefore necessarily public, was first and foremost predicated on the extermination, or excision, of offending individuals from the social body, as discretely and unspectacularly as possible.

Keywords: death penalty; Revolution; pain; forced labor; National Assembly; Guillotin; legislative reforms; humane punishments; extermination; excision; social body

Chapter.  10969 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)

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