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opinion grows sentimental, and chooses utterly to lose sight of the crime committed and avowed, because it takes into its head to think Léonie Chéreau has been the object of unworthy treatment on the part of another person, whose worthiness or unworthiness had in reality nothing to do with the criminality of the act charged. Had Léonie Chéreau stolen M. Hua’s child? Yes; she had done so. Was Léonie Chéreau in any one way a person meriting the interest of the public? No ; in no one single way was she so. She was—and did not deny that she was—a girl of precociously bad conduct—sponta.neously bad conduct, not bad conduct resulting from the seduction of another individual; but, in the details of the trial, it appeared that the person in whose favour Léonie Chéreau had manifested whatever was bad in herself, was even worse than she was. Léonie Ohéreau stole M. Hua's child in order that a man, with whom she had had but a very short connexion, should, believing her to be a mother, be induced to marry her. There was so little excuse for the girl in any respect, that she actually did not at first even represent herself as a victim ; but the counsel for the defence merely sought to make her out recommendable to indulgence on the ground of infirm health. Hysteria was the principal plea invoked. All at once the public sense became excited against George Prieur, the indirect cause of Léonie Chéreau’s guilty act, but who was in no possible form or degree any thing beyond an indirect cause, for he had no knowledge whatever of what the girl was meditating; had indeed no communication of any sort or kind with her. The impetus once given, the feeling out of doors was rapidly a flame. M. Hua’s stolen child, and the agonies of the bereft parents, were altogether lost sight of. Léonie Chéreau was no longer the object for popular indignation, because, though she might be bad, there was somebody worse. Let it be noted, however, worse only in a sentimental way, and in a way which had no earthly bearing upon the cause being tried. Now, what did the representatives of the law? they instantly obeyed the feeling out of doors, and sought for a popular sentence. There was no justice done in the case of Léonie Chéreau; but the registering of the VOL. VIII. NO. XVI. z
general opinion out of doors on the part of the ministers of the law. The current of popular sentimentality excited by claptrap appeals to passion, prejudice, romantic conceptions, and melodramatic plots, are substituted for legal evidence and judicial sentence. Again, let us take another example, that of the recent case of Angelina Lemoine. What passes? The department of Indra et Loire is notoriously what is called in France mal pensant ; it is, namely, full of demagogues and socialists, consequently J éan Fétis, the coachman, has to be tenderly dealt by. Accordingly, throughout the trial, we have to note the extreme leniency of the presiding judge towards a man who had evidently, to say the least of it, speculated upon the dishonour of a girl of fifteen. Because the guilt of Angelina Lemoine and her mother is recognized, that does not exculpate Fétis, or make him a subject less fit for reprobation. But a strong demagogical party is represented by Fétis, and it would not have been thought wise to attack him. The person marked out for punishment by popular feeling was Madame Lemoine. This was so clear that, before the trial, she herself over and over asserted her conviction that she could not escape ; and after the trial, drawing up her appeal to a higher court, she expressed the confident hope that, “ apart from the influences of local prejudice, justice would be done her.” It must be remarked, that (as the public press in England almost universally aflirmed) there was no possible proof of the crime laid to the charge of Madame Lemoine ; the only proof attempted to be produced was the testimony of her own _daughter, who had been confined five minutes before, and who was tacitly acknowledged, even by the prosecution, not to be in a condition to serve as a witness. There is even something like presumption, that Madame Lemoine’s statement of the child having been still-born is atrue one ; for, in the first place, the so-called “men of science” who are called in to examine the frontal bone of the infant’s skull, cannot agree as to whether it is or not that of a child prematurely born ; and, in the next, the desperate gymnastic exercises practised by Angelina Lemoine during the time preceding the birth, might well have succeeded ‘in bringing _about the effect so desired by A.ngelina’s mother,
The only point upon which rests the belief that Madame Lemoine has not only destroyed the remains of a dead infant, in order to save her daughter from shame, but actually killed that infant that she might be enabled to destroy its remains; the only point, we repeat, upon which this belief rests, is the popular appreciation of Madame Le-moine’s character. One witness says, he upon a
former occasion warned Monsieur Lemoine “to take care of his
wife,” his (the witness’s) opinion being that “ she was capable of any thing.” This becomes rapidly also the opinion of the populations of the neighbourhood; and it having been accepted as a fact that “ Madame Lemoine was capable of any thing,” there was no longer any means of calmly and impartially examining whether she had in reality committed the crime imputed to her or not. We are not attempting to defend Madame Lemoine. She is,
above all (even supposing her statement be the true one)—she is,
above all, guilty of a. lawless act, of taking the law into her own hands. She behaves just as did .Madame de Jeufosse, and sets herself up above the law of the land, which is in no instance to be tolerated. But upon that ground she is not attacked; neither was Madame de Jeufosse. Both are tried and judged by partial and sentimental, not by strictly legal rules. Madame de J eufosse is not so antipathetic to public opinion in her locality as is the man who becomes the victim of her lawless violence, and she is less hardly treated ; Madame Lemoine is decided by those who live near her, and who fill the court where she is tried to sufl'ocatio'n _to “ be capable of any thing;” and therefore, byimplieation, to be capable of what she is accused of, and she must be sacrificed. But where is justice in all this? where is the majesty of the law, self-subsistent, independent, superior to all out-of-doors influence, and trusted for being all this by the population far and near?
This is nowhere; nor will any magistrate in France, if he be
sincere, affect to say that justice ever can be administered with impartiality, and with that austere and perfect purity, that alone identifies the application of criminal law with justice,
and deprives it of a certain air of revenge which is inadmissible in the civilization of our day. French magistrates, when they, in spite of themselves, are forced into acknowledging the state of things we have hinted at, throw the entire blame upon the jury ; and nothing can exceed the dislike and disdain invariably expressed by members of the bench and of the bar in France, for the institution which with us seems to work so well, and to afford such guarantees to the impartial working of the law. The relationship of the jury to the bench, and the action of the latter upon the former, are also things which, in France, are worthy of the utmost attention. Nowhere is the antagonism more apparent between the mass of individuals who form the nation, and the “functionaries,” who are set apart and paid for administering what it pleases the state to call justice. You see at once of what opposite origins are the two; but,“ as in every other case, the citizen succumbs to the functionary, the judge overrules the jury, and the dignity and usefulness of the law are nullified.
If our limits had permitted us to undertake a detailed and elaborate analysis of all that is to be found in the two volumes of the excellent work before us, we could have pointed to the conscientious study of the comparative legislations of nearly all the countries of the globe made by the author. The various legal institutions and customs of Europeans and Asiatics, of Saxon, Slavonic, Gallic, or Mussulman races, with the most accurate research into their remotest origin, and the account of their various bearings upon the societies over which they rule——all this is to be found in M. du Boys’ treatise upon modern legislation ; but it has seemed to us of more immediate utility to the English reader, to make him familiar with what concerns merely French legislation, and the causes of its striking deficiencies.
The dislike of its laws by a nation does appear to us so very singular a fact (and of its existence as a fact we are not aware of any denial having ever been made), that we have felt there was perhaps some interest in looking into its causes. There are, we are persuaded, far remoter ones than superficial observers care to note; but, as most of the mistakes committed by the Frenc h,_ they contain too serious a lesson for us to be warranted in letting them pass by disregarded. Between the legislation of England and of France, it is a question of centralization and non-centralization (i. e., local freedom). We represent the latter principle in its extremest development; the French represent the former in its narrowest sense. We are still animated by the spirit of Germanism, which upholds tradition, consecrates custom, takes the judicial forces of the nation from the body of the nation itself, and aims at the maximum of self-legislation ; the French are slaves to the spirit of ancient Rome, which theorizes and despises tradition, takes the judicial forces of the country from a separate source, and brings them to bear inimically upon society, and aims at the maximum of passive obedience to a body of functionaries appointed by the state. The two systems have produced, and are daily producing, consequences from which it is easy to discern which conduces most to the public weal; but we have met with no technical work in which the original causes of the present insufliciency of French legislation are so impartially pointed out as in M. du Boys’ “History of the Criminal Law of Modern Nations.”