E. Belfort Bax

Soleiland and the Death Penalty

(5 October 1907)

Soleiland and the Death Penalty, Justice, 5th October 1907, p.6.
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The veritable orgy of bloodlust in which the baser elements of the French capital indulged the other week anent the reprieve by M. Fallières of the wretched homicidal sexuo-maniac Soleiland only furnishes another argument, if such were needed, for urgency in the abolition of capital punishment. It would seem the bare possibility of the doing to death by law of a murderer is sufficient to demoralise a section of the population of a large city. The knowledge that this was impossible would at least prevent such exhibitions of the bête humaine in the streets as Paris saw on that occasion. For the rest, the utter illogicality of the savage fury excited by these sexual crimes is manifest, when we consider that of all crimes they are the most obviously pathological, calling for the seclusion of the asylum rather than anything else. Murders with a distinct ulterior object and accompanied by circumstances indicating premeditation, it is intelligible should call forth strong indignation, yet strange to say they seem to excite people less than these crimes of mental abnormality. Here we have true sentimentalism, understanding by this term an unreasoning, one-sided sentiment. To stigmatise, as is sometimes done by reactionary persons, the demand for the abolition of a demoralising and dastardly crime on the part of the law, such as capital punishment, as sentimentalism, is to confound all moral distinctions. To the accomplished brigand, for example, most qualms of conscience respecting profitable murder represent sentimentalism of an abject kind. Even the British housebreaker has proved himself at times not to be over-burdened with considerations of weak sentimentalism in this connection. All morality is at bottom based on sentiment, and hence open to the gibe of sentimentalism on the part of him who objects to its dictates. For sentimentalism with some people is simply a term of abuse for moral sentiment which is inconvenient to them, or which they cannot understand.




Last updated on 15.7.2004