Listen to the Experts

In the event our civilization ever does follow Grim's ideas (which I partly share) and reintroduces corporal punishment as an alternative to will be important to consider the testimony of expert floggers from the past in deciding "what for" and "how much." One of the all-time experts was doubtless the Duke of Wellington himself, in his testimony before the Commission on Military Punishments, and part of it is given here.
There is no punishment which makes an impression upon anybody except corporal punishment. You send a man into solitary confinement; nobody sees him in solitary confinement, and nobody knows what he is suffering while he is in solitary confinement, and therefore this punishment is no example to the thousand men who are there upon the parade at the same time. The man may suffer so much in solitary confinement as that he will not be guilty of the offence again; but that is not the principle of punishment—that is not the intention oepunishment. The real meaning of punishment, if it means any thing, is example—it is to prevent others, by the example of what they see the criminal suffer, from committing the same or a similar offence...I am aware that lately, in the gaols of this country in general, a system of solitary confinemeat has been adopted and silence enforced. I do not know how far this has answered...but I understand that in America, for instance, at Sing Sing, and at some other places, the resource is corporal punishment...
Here are a few other quotes from testimony before the commission, including a couple of exchanges with Wellington.
Q: "Must not a certain time elapse before corporal punishment can be inflicted, on account of the proceedings of the court martial?"

A: "There was a very summary proceeding, which is now discontinued, which is called a drum-head court martial; but the man is brought to a court martial as soon as possible. A court martial is ordered; the forms take a certain time, but the man is sure of being tried, and, if convicted, of being punished. But, besides this punishment by court martial, there is in all [British] Armies the provost. I do not mean to say that the provost could be used for the purpose of enforcing an order of that description, but the provost is always liable to be used to prevent any irregularity: for instance, if there is a system of plunder going on, the provost is ordered to prevent it, and he punishes those taken in fact on the spot."

Q: "Towards the latter time of your service in the Peninsula, was corporal punishment very frequent in the Army, or more frequent than it had been in the beginning?"

A: "I cannot say that I know exactly how it was in the regiments. I rather believe it was not so frequent. I am positively certain that crime had most enormously diminished; that there was not one crime for one hundred that there were in the beginning of the time. I think my orders shew it. There was a man convicted of robbery; and I pardoned him, because the crime had become so rare...

Q: "Do you conceive that the Army, when it left France from the Pyrenees, was in as efficient state for service as an Army can well be brought to?"

A: "I always thought that I could have gone anywhere and done anything with that Army. It was impossible to have a machine more highly mounted and in better order, and in a better state of discipline than that Army was. When I quitted that Army upon the Garonne, I do not think it was possible to see anything at a higher state of discipline; and I believe there was total discontinuance of all punishment."
If the Good Old Duke was right, deterrence works, and speed is of the essence. Lieutenant-Colonel Fane, at the second link, seemed to agree:
Q: "Have you seen cases in which the infliction of corporal punishment has failed in reforming the individuals punished, but, on the contrary, has rather hardened their feelings, and made them more reckless?"

A: "I think, in the course of my military life, I have seen one or two desperate characters that nothing would have reclaimed; and that very severe punishment in their cases tended more to harden than reclaim them."

Q: "Though such men are generally repeatedly punished in that way?"

A: "They have been; but I have also seen men when on service, who, knowing that the punishment of death would be awarded to them for the crime, which was plunder, persevere in it, until they heard or saw the provost-marshal was coming up in the rear of the division. I mean to say, by that, that I think the fear of immediate corporal punishment had more effect upon them than the chance of being tried and hanged."


Grim said...

I mean to say, by that, that I think the fear of immediate corporal punishment had more effect upon them than the chance of being tried and hanged.

I'd say that's got to be just about right. Boys will trust their capacity to deceive against any danger of potential future punishment; but they quail and speak the truth when you first show them the belt.

jaed said...

There was a man convicted of robbery; and I pardoned him, because the crime had become so rare...

An interesting statement. Is it sound? (That is, is the rarity of a crime a reason to pardon it?)

Tom said...

Another current source of expertise would be Singapore, which still practices caning as a punishment, I believe.

J Melcher said...

An overlooked point in this discussion -- such punishment is FAIR. Just and equal. It hurts a rich man just as much as a poor one.

Should a rich man be fined $500 or even confined to jail a month, his net worth is reduced by some small fraction. A poor man punished by the same amount or the same number of days forcibily withheld from working is returned to the public in an economic condition of utter ruin.

Should each man be stripped and whipped, then the same afternoon returned to his home and family and job and routine, then the goal of equality is well-served.

Should we as a culture be too squeamish to whip offenders, the same equal punishment might be achieved by imposing "public service" -- out visibly chained together, picking up litter -- on both the rich and poor. Though the rich can still afford to be away from regular work better. All in all, whipping is more just. But imprisonment is the least just of punishments.

Grim said...

An excellent argument, Mr. Melcher. I had not considered the issue in that light, but you are correct.

Joseph W. said...

Jaad -- In the context of military justice, most definitely. In Welllington's view, and in mine, the primary purpose of military justice is discipline, and the primary means of achieving it is through deterrence. When you're trying to get a big problem under control (Wellington testified, and I have often read, that the soldiers of his era were drawn from the "underclass" and were a rowdy, lawless bunch until they could be trained) can't afford to show weakness or mercy; when crime is rare you can afford more acts of mercy. Letting one man go wouldn't be such a big issue, because the other troops around him well knew the whip was there and would certainly be employed again if it were needed.

Joseph W. said...

Thinking on Grim's first comment...I suppose it's related to why we have to use earthly punishments at all, even on people who've believed from childhood that they're in danger of Hell fire for their crimes. (Or, with a better attitude, get pie in the sky when they die.)

Grim said...

I'm not sure that's better -- the line is Marxist. But it turns up in Celtic rock often enough, probably just for that reason. Dropkick Murphys did it in the "Worker's Song," and Seven Nations did it as well in "Pound a Week Rise."

jaed said...

Joseph W - in the context you mention (deterrance/exemplary punishment), I wondered whether this would be perceived as unfair. If one man is punished, and another pardoned for an arguably as bad or worse crime, because the latter's crime was rarer, would the perceived unfairness detract from the legitimacy of the process in the eyes of the men? This would be what I'd worry about.

(Introducing an element of unpredictability also seems like a bad idea in this situation...)

Joseph W. said...

Grim - Sure, I don't take the whole mindset of the just popped into my head as an extreme example of what economists call "time preference"...gigantic punishments and rewards in the far future just don't have the same effect as something smaller, but here-and-now. At least not on likely criminals...who tend to have low intelligence and high time-preference.

Jaed - It may well be perceived as unfair; military justice often is even if it is done well. On my second Iraq tour I dealt with four persons who were technically guilty of desertion with intent to shirk. Two I had the pleasure of prosecuting at court-martial; two got nonjudicial punishment. They were all in different units and the command took different actions according to the needs of the unit and the individual Soldier.

While there is something to be said for fairness, military justice in particular is and should be a very practical affair...very much in the commander's hands and very much tailored to the needs of his mission. Or as Sun Tzu put it, one of the besetting faults of a warlike prince is "to try to administer an army in the way he administers a great kingdom...humanity and justice are the principles to administer a great kingdom, while flexibility and opportunism are military rather than civic virtues."

So, if we went back to civil flogging for civilian offenses outside of prison, I don't suppose we could have quite so much flexibility...though I still like it best when the sentencing authority has some discretion to fit the punishment to the crime.

Now that I think of it, I saw a much milder version of the very thing Wellington was talking about. I don't know if you're a vet but you may've heard about general order 1...which prohibited alcohol, porn, and various other things in theater. Pretty unpopular with the troops, too. I had one battalion commander give pretty strong nonjudicial punishment right at the beginning of the deployment for a way of explaining to the troops, "Yes, I am going to enforce this order, just the way I told you, and I really mean it." After that, he had few fact I don't remember any, but if there were, they weren't getting such strong punishment (as I would've remembered that).

An outsider might say "no fair" but it worked...especially as people who behaved themselves got their rank back pretty fast.

(I remember it well because one of the guys had not just porn, but kiddie porn, which led to hotly contested trial. Also because that commander was very quick to find someone not guilty if he had a doubt about the evidence.)

Ymar Sakar said...

The death penalty cannot deter crime because it takes too long. It is essentially life imprisonment + summary execution. Which is neither just nor warranted. The punishment juries were supposedly deciding was life imprisonment or execution by death.

Most people only pay attention to short term gains and losses. They don't have the imagination or human resources to project long term, such as the top 10% of humanity.

Ymar Sakar said...

and another pardoned for an arguably as bad or worse crime, because the latter's crime was rarer, would the perceived unfairness detract from the legitimacy of the process in the eyes of the men?

Make the person guilty atone for the crime against the victims.

Even if the punishment is pardoned from society's view point, that doesn't mean it is permissible or forgiven by everyone.