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ON THE EXPRESSIONS
TO PUT TO THE CROSS, AND TO PUT TO
AS DESCRIPTIVE OF ANCIENT AND MODERN TORTURE.
Universality of the disposition of Man to Cruelty.-The syno
nymes of—To put to the Cross—and to put to the Rack.The evil Principle denominated Demonism.— Illustrated by the practice of Torture under the Civil and Statute Law of Christian Nations.—The punishments of the Knout and the Cat-of-nine-tails.—Difference between the torture by the Cross and the Rack.—Terrible spectacle of a Multitude under the power of Demonism.
As the deliberate torture of the human body in the various degrees from excruciating pain to the agoni. sing struggle in death, has been common among men of all countries and ages, we must look for the origin of such a general practice in the depraved feelings and cruel passions of the human heart. It is not peculiar to tribes of savages and nations of rude barbarians, but it was part of the system of social polity, established by the most refined peoples of antiquity, and has been continued by the most celebrated civil
ised nations of modern times, professing the religion of Jesus Christ.
The expressions “ To put to the Cross," and " To put to the Rack," are the synonymes descriptive of the mechanical process of torturing the human body by ancient heathen peoples, and by modern peoples since the Christian era. It is remarkable to find to what an extent those synonymous expressions have shaped the idiom of language descriptive of corporeal and mental pain, torment, and anguish, including the little crosses of life, and the greater evils of rack-rent. An ancient Roman, in describing a man in a state of excruciating bodily agony, would have said that “ he was put to the cross,” and a modern European would use the expression, he “was put to the rack."
Man is a compound being, made up of the special qualities of humanity, mixed with the animal nature, and allied to the demon and the angel. His angelic nature, though here placed last, was his original constitution, which he will resume when regenerated and purified by the grace of God, in another state of existence. It is with his demoniacal propensities that we have to deal here. His passions of hatred and revenge, and his purposes of cruelty to his fellow man, are the development of his evil nature. This fourfold division of the constitution of man is proved by his history and his actions in all his progress; but we must be guarded against assigning the relative proportions of the qualities of the human, the animal, the demoniacal, and the angelical. It is not for man to ascertain the proportional amounts of the opposite qualities of his own nature. These are only known to the Creator and the Searcher of hearts. The demoniacal principle, analogous to the infinitesimal proportion of the most destructive element in the atmo
sphere, may be, compared with the higher and better parts in man's nature, of very small amount, but yet more than enough to produce vast evil in the world.
It is our design here only to attempt to analyse the disposition in man to cruelty, in the shape of torture and death to his fellow man, in order to bring from the analysis some practical results. It will facilitate our reasoning, if we apply to phrenology for the use of its nomenclature for describing mental operations, and certain propensities in man. This demoniacal development towards deliberate cruelty and torture in public punishments, or private maiming and murder, may be perceived as a modification of three powers or propensities, marked in the phrenological system as Combativeness, Destructiveness, and Secretiveness, in the bad sense. This product of the three worst propensities or qualities of human nature, we shall designate Demonism. This propensity, in a greater or less degree, exists in every human mind; but of course is subdued, and may be eradicated by the preponderance of the better or angelical qualities of the mind under the grace of God; and indeed such is the glory of man in his state of highest perfection, that Saint Paul says-"Know ye not, that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life? Douay: “Know you not that we shall judge angels ? how much more things of this world ?”
The principle of demonism is constantly in action in society, in all conditions of man's existence, and it shows itself in an infinite variety of forms, from the impalement of a fly by a child, gratified by the convulsive efforts of his victim to escape from the agony-to the massacre of thousands of human beings, at one time planned in the secret councils of a government or
* 1 Corin. vi. 3.
of an inquisition, and executed by armed agents, who, in the terrible readiness of their obedience, show their gratification in the cruelty of their actions. The agonies of the death on the cross, and the tortures by the rack of the Popish Inquisition, were exhibited to gratify the demonism of the executioners. Every country and every people have displayed the workings of that terrible principle. The slow burning of Michael Servetus, in the sixteenth century, and of the last witch in Scotland, in the beginning of the eighteenth, and the sentence passed on the 9th of October, 1848, to behead and cut into quarters the body of William Smith O'Brien, are modifications of demonism. This is describing in a new phraseology well-known historical deeds, and the description may offend the sensitive mind, but it is necessary at times to adopt new illustrations of old principles and things.
The account of the various modes of tortures practised in all countries, is part of the general history of mankind; and it is a remarkable circumstance in Christian nations, under their civil and ecclesiastical laws, or under the despotic prerogatives of their sovereigns, after the twelfth century, that systematic and prescribed torture, equalled in its horrid forms of cruelty, and perhaps surpassed, the most agonising and slow processes of inflicting death, practised by the cruelest of ancient heathen peoples. This fact demonstrates the homogeneity of human nature in its most repulsive features; and taking into consideration the possession of the knowledge of Christianity by the European nations, the circumstance is calculated to make every person at present living, reflect with shame and sorrow on the past history of his country.* The
* The African slave trade in living human bodies, carried on from Liverpool and Bristol down to 1807, developed demonism
historical fact is, that the Christian nations actually increased the tortures originally invented by the ancient heathen peoples. In the twelfth century, , most of the European nations adopted the Roman law, as codified by Justinian in the sixth century, and torture was gradually introduced into courts of law. Crucifixion was, however, never introduced into Europe since the time of Constantine, who abolished that cruel punishment. England did not adopt the Justinian code of laws, and it therefore escaped the disgrace of having torture defined and authorised by statute law; but, under the action of demonism in kings and their ministers possessed of despotic power, torture at one time was as common and severe as in countries where it was allowed by law. One of the most horrible punishments, even greater in its agonies than crucifixion itself, was inflicted on a prisoner who stood mute, when arraigned for treason or felony in an English court of law. If he did not answer to the charge, or did not confess, he was taken into a low dark chamber, and laid on his back naked on the floor, and a weight as great as he could bear of iron placed on him. His sustenance was three morsels of the worst bread, and three draughts of water a day, and in this situation he was kept till he died. * A prisoner might subsist for forty days under this lingering
in its most fearful state. The diagrams and pictures of the black slaves lying packed close together in the recesses of the holds of the vessels, together with the statistics of space allowed, and of the method of packing the slaves in barrels to be thrown overboard in case of pursuit, as presented in the history of the slave trade by Thomas Clarkson, give a picture of satanic depravity truly appalling, and unparalleled in the history of mankind. And yet the Government of the British nation opposed the abolition of the demoniacal system !
* Blackstone's “Commentaries,” vol. iv. p. 327.