The Ravachol Verdict

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The Ravachol Verdict

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“The Ravachol Verdict,” Liberty 8 no. 40 (May 21, 1892): 3-4.

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The Ravachol Verdict.

 

Whether justifiably or not, the jury that failed to guillotine Ravachol, the dynamiter, is the butt of much ridicule in Paris, the general opinion being that the explosion in the Very restaurant on the eve of the trial so frightened the jurymen that they did not dare to take extreme measures. "L’Echo de Paris" pictures the trying situation of these panic-stricken bourgeois in the following mock account of the jury’s deliberations:

First Juror.—“Well, Monsieur, what do you think about it?”

Second Juror.—“Why, to be sure!”

Third Juror.—“It is a serious matter!”

Fourth Juror.—“And a complicated one.”

Fifth Juror.—“Not so bad as that! In fact, the struggle is simply between our conscience and our interest.”

Sixth Juror.—“Conscience must prevail.”

The Others (faintly).—“Certainly, certainly."

Seventh Juror.—“It is evident that the question has two sides.”

Eighth Juror.—“If we do not condemn Ravachol, we shall fail in our duty.”

Ninth Juror.—“And if we do condemn him, we run a great risk of being blown up.”

Tenth juror.—“Is it one’s duty to be blown up, in life? That is the whole question.”

Eleventh juror.—“I would rather not.”

The Others.—“Me too.”

Twelfth juror.—“Yet we must come to some decision.”

First juror.—“Why? We could continue our deliberations for several years; meanwhile perhaps Ravachol would die a natural death, and then. . .”

Second juror.—“Impossible! I give a dinner party day after to-morrow.”

Third juror.—“And besides, that would have a. suspicious look.”

Fourth juror.—“Then let us decide.”

Fifth juror.—“Let us condemn him squarely.”

Sixth juror.—“Or acquit him with equal squareness.”

Seventh juror.—“There, already, is a great step taken.”

Eighth juror.—“I support both propositions.”

Ninth juror.—“In principle, I am for condemnation.”

All.—“Indeed!”

Tenth juror.—“But in fact, that is quite another matter.”

All.—“Evidently.”

Eleventh juror.—“In all cases there are degrees.”

Twelfth juror.—“We can condemn without condemning.”

First juror.—“Or not condemn, while condemning.”

Second juror.—“Which, however, is a matter for consideration.”

Third juror.—“How rapidly we are gaining light!”

Fourth juror.—“Now that we have light, perhaps we can agree.”

Fifth juror.—“That will be more difficult.”

Sixth juror.—“Then let us settle it by lot.”

Seventh juror.—“A good idea! Let us put all the different penalties in a hat.”

Eighth juror.—“Including acquittal.”

Ninth juror.—“Of course.”

Tenth juror.—“And we entrust ourselves to fate.”

All.—“Bravo!”

(The foreman writes several little slips, throws them into his hat, and shakes them up energetically.)

Eleventh juror.—“I am agitated.”

Twelfth juror.—“It seems to me as if I myself were about to be condemned.”

First juror.—“Are you ready, gentlemen?"

All.—“We are ready.”

(Deep silence, disturbed only by the sound of chattering teeth,)

First juror.—“One, two, three. . . (Here he takes a slip from the hat.) There is our decree.”

Second juror.—“Be merciful!”

First Juror.—“I will try. (He unfolds the slip and reads:) Imprisonment for life at hard labor.”

All (overwhelmed).—“We have no luck!”

 

The jurors, however, stoutly and indignantly defend themselves against the charge that their verdict was influenced by fear, and the following considerations, advanced by one of them to an “Intransigeant” reporter in defence of the verdict, cannot be easily disposed of:

 

“Our decision was what it should have been,—impartial and just. Why were Ravachol and his accomplices prosecuted? Was it for the murder of the hermit of Chambles? No, but for explosions which had killed nobody. It was not for us to inquire into the past of the prisoners brought before us, but only into the act with which they are charged. This act was an attempt at murder. An attempt, you understand, an attempt not followed by the effect! Did ever a Paris jury punish an attempt as severely as the crime itself? That is the first consideration. I will add that, for my own part, I was also disinclined to vote for Ravachol’s death, because I am a determined opponent of capital punishment: but this is a personal consideration. Let us pass now to another order of ideas. Were the attempts of which Ravachol and his accomplices were guilty common-law crimes or political crimes? In short, was it for the simple pleasure of killing, was it for purposes of theft, that they blew up two houses? No. They were actuated by a quite different motive. It was a criminal motive, and to me a horrible one. but it necessarily had a certain influence upon our decision. To sum up: In my soul and conscience it was impossible to send to the scaffold men who had killed nobody and had been guilty of political offences. That is all I have to say.”

 

The Ravachol Verdict,” Liberty 8 no. 40 (May 21, 1892): 3-4.

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“The Ravachol Verdict,” The Libertarian Labyrinth, accessed September 21, 2018, http://library.libertarian-labyrinth.org/items/show/2452.