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Cesare Beccaria And John Howard´S View On Law And Justice In The 18th Century

1220 words - 5 pages

In the mid to late 18th century, prisons across Europe were a problem. Moreover, the judicial system was also corrupt. Cesare Beccaria and John Howard though from very different places shed light on the different areas of the laws and practices associated with the legal system. Beccaria focuses more on how and why people were getting to prison and their rights juxtaposed to the judges who he deemed unimpartial. He sees the corruption of criminal investigation and seeks for reform. He does not focus much on what happens once criminals are convicted. Howard focuses attention on what is happening once people got into prison; the way they were being treated. He does not care how they got there but how they are treated when they get there. Beccaria believed in the rights of each person against the nation, while Howard believed that prisoners were being treated evil and attempted to shed light on how they were being mistreated.
Beccaria believed that the basis of law “ought to be, compacts of free men” and but that they were being twisted and used as “a mere tool of the passions of some”. He continued that laws should be “dictated by a dispassionate student of human nature who might, by bringing the actions of a multitude of men into focus, consider them from this single point of view; the greatest happiness shared by the greatest number.”
Some enlightenment ideals he portrays is how he sees power and arrogance crushing justice. He focuses on the idea of “rights” and “Private liberty of each person.” Before the enlightenment you do not hear people talk about the idea of people’s individual rights. “The sway of habit is universal… the ideas of morality come to be stamped upon the mind only by long and repeated impressions.” This idea can be seen in previous enlightenment thinkers like John Locke who had the idea of a blank slate. The idea is empirical, the morals are not given in nature, rather they are learned by repetition and experience.
He sees the need for reform and opposed the practices going on in Europe of judges ruling not impartially but using their passions to rule. He showed that many judges in fact favored those who were guilty of breaking the law because they favored the person and convicted the innocent based not on law but on passions. He complained that the magistrates were free to “imprison a citizen at his own pleasure, to deprive an enemy of liberty on frivolous pretexts, and to leave a friend unpunished notwithstanding the clearest evidences of his guilt.”
Magistrates in this period were acting above the law and abusing it. This was robbing people of their rights and true justice. Laws were he saw implemented as a need, and that progress should be attained through the practice of good laws and not acting above the laws in place.
He proposed some changes that needed to be made such as “A man accused of a crime, who has been imprisoned and acquitted, ought not to be branded with infamy.” Furthermore he complains...

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