London July 20. Thursday.
“Every Act of Authority, of one Man over another for which there is not an absolute Necessity, is tyrannical.”
“Le Pene che oltre passano la necessita di conservare il deposito della Salute pubblica, sono ingiuste di lor natura.” Beccaria.1
The Sovereign Power is constituted, to defend Individuals against the Tyranny of others. Crimes are acts of Tyranny of one or more on another or more. A Murderer, a Thief, a Robber, a Burglar, is a Tyrant.
Perjury, Slander, are tyranny too, when they hurt any one.
1. “All punishments that go beyond the requirements of public safety are by their very nature unjust” —Beccaria, Deidelitti e delle pene, ch. 2. JA is quoting from his own copy of the Italian text (new edn., Haarlem and Paris, 1780, p. 10), which he had acquired in July 1780. This passage is near the end of ch. 2. The quotation in English in the preceding paragraph of this entry is also from Beccaria, ch. 2 (near the beginning of that chapter), but is taken from JA’s copy of the English translation (An Essay on Crimes and Punishments, London, 1775, p. 7). This shows that JA used the original and the translation together, but the new Italian edition of 1780 varies markedly in its text from the version on which the earlier translation was based. Both volumes are among JA’s books in the Boston Public Library; JA presented the English translation to his son TBA in 1800.