Editor’s Comment: I was asked this on another site and decided to share my answer with you.
by Chuck Diaz
After reading the answer defining the 8th amendment of various countries I must apologize. When I’m on a site while in my home in the United States of America, I assume that any question or comment is about America this or America that.
I would suggest to Quora to add a country ID to a person’s moniker so we can know who we are all talking to.
However after reading the question, I take back my apology because the person asking the question didn’t specify which country’s constitution was meant.
So with that I will say this about the 8th Amendment to the US Constitution.
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishment inflicted.” —Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution
I would think the Eighth Amendment is pretty straightforward, and for the most part, it is. People and judges mostly understand “excessive bail” and “fines.” The problem is defining “cruel and unusual punishments”
There are those who consider the death penalty to be cruel and unusual mostly because they are just against the death penalty. The Bill of Rights was passed in 1789 in an era when there were real cruel and unusual punishments.
In the 1760s, an English jurist named Sir William Blackstone wrote in Commentaries on the Laws of England, a four-volume handbook, a list of permissible sentences that included “emboweling alive, beheading and quartering” if found guilty of treason. For a minor crime he included “slitting of the nostrils.”
Considering “emboweling alive, beheading and quartering” are all forms of ways to kill a person, I don’t think our forefathers were thinking the death penalty was cruel or unusual. Maybe they wanted to make the way to actually kill the perpetrator less cruel.
I say that because three years after passing the Bill of Rights, Congress passed the Coinage Act of 1792. Congress determined a good sentence for any United States Mint employee found guilty of fraud, embezzlement, counterfeiting for profit, or “guilty of a felony” to be “suffer[ing] death.”
“Sec. 19. And be it further enacted, That if any of the gold or silver coins which shall be struck or coined at the said mint shall be debased or made worse as to the proportion of fine gold or fine silver therein contained, or shall be of less weight or value than the same ought to be pursuant to the directions of this act, through the default or with the connivance of any of the officers or persons who shall be employed at the said mint, for the purpose of profit or gain, or otherwise with a fraudulent intent, and if any of the said officers or persons shall embezzle any of the metals which shall at any time be committed to their charge for the purpose of being coined, or any of the coins which shall be struck or coined at the said mint, every such officer or person who shall commit any or either of the said offences, shall be deemed guilty of felony, and shall suffer death.” (emphasis in original)
I believe we can agree that the death penalty was not considered cruel or unusual, but the way it is done can be.
But hold your horses; we have not heard from one of the ruling class, and I would be remiss if I did not include one opinion.
In 1972, the Supreme Court put a temporary halt to death sentences—an action I believe violates the Ninth and Tenth Amendments. Justice William J. Brennan Jr. concurred with the court’s decision and wrote, “The calculated killing of a human being by the State involves a denial of the executed person’s humanity.”
That sure sounds like a personal opinion to me, but this is a Supreme Court justice. Is he supposed to vote his opinion, or is he supposed to enforce the Constitution?
Herein lies the problem; there are those who believe the Constitution should be interpreted liberally and not literally. They say the Constitution is too old and out of date.
The Constitution is a document that defines a federal government and freedom for all Americans, protecting them from that federal government. The definition of freedom shall never change; only tyrants would tell you otherwise.