This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
 that space of time. Then the use of torture was common throughout Europe. Inability to comprehend and believe certain religious dogmas was a crime to be expiated by death, or confiscation of estate, or lingering imprisonment. Petty offences against property furnished subjects for the hangman. The stocks and the whipping-post stood by the side of the meeting-house. Tongues were bored with redhot irons and ears shorn off. The jails were loathsome dungeons, swarming with vermin, unventilated, unwarmed. A century and a half ago the populace of Massachusetts were convulsed with grim merriment at the writhings of a miserable woman scourged at the cart-tail or strangling in the ducking-stool; crowds hastened to enjoy the spectacle of an old man enduring the unutterable torment of the peine forte et dure,— pressed slowly to death under planks,—for refusing to plead to all indictment for witchcraft. What a change from all this to the opening of the State Reform School, to the humane regulations of prisons and penitentiaries, to keen-eyed benevolence watching over the administration of justice, which, in securing society from lawless aggression, is not suffered to overlook the true interest and reformation of the criminal, nor to forget that the magistrate, in the words of the Apostle, is to be indeed ‘the minister of God to man for good’
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.
An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.