The Government Class Book eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 386 pages of information about The Government Class Book.

Sec.11.  A rate of interest beyond that which is established by law, is usury.  Not only can no more be collected on any contract or obligation than the legal rate, but in most of the states there is some forfeiture for taking usurious interest.  In a few, the obligation is void, and the payment of no part of the debt can be enforced by law; in others, twice or thrice the excess above the lawful interest is forfeited; and in some, only the excess paid can be recovered.

Chapter LXII.

Crimes and Misdemeanors.

Sec.1.  The statutes of each state define the crimes of which its laws take cognizance.  The definitions given in this chapter, agree substantially, it is presumed, with those of similar crimes in every state in the union.  The statutes also prescribe the penalties, which are not precisely the same in all the states.  Nor is there in any state an equal measure of punishment inflicted in all cases for the same offense.  The laws usually declare the longest and the shortest terms of imprisonment, and the highest and lowest fines, leaving the exact measure of punishment, except for crimes punishable by death, to the discretion of the judges, to be fixed according to the aggravation of the offense.

Sec.2.  The laws of the several states differ in respect to the number of crimes made punishable by death.  In some states the penalty of death is annexed to the crime of murder only.  Treason is punishable by death; but as this offense is defined and made punishable by the laws of the United States, not all the states take cognizance of it.  If committed in such states, it is tried in the courts of the United States.  In New York, murder, treason, and arson in the first degree, are punishable by death.  Few states make more than these crimes thus punishable.  In two or three states, the penalty of death has been abolished, and imprisonment for life substituted.

Sec.3.  Crimes punishable by death, are called capital crimes, and their punishment is called capital punishment.  The word capital is from the Latin caput, which means head; and so has come to signify the highest or principal.  Hence, probably, the application of the word capital to the principal crimes receiving the highest punishment, which was formerly practiced extensively in other countries by beheading or decapitating the criminals.

Sec.4. Treason is defined by statute to be, levying war in any state against the people of the state; or a combination of two or more persons, attempting by force to usurp or overturn the government of the state; or in adhering to enemies of the state while separately engaged in war with a foreign enemy, and giving them aid and comfort.

Sec.5. Murder is the killing of a person deliberately and maliciously, and with intent to effect death; or killing a person in committing some other crime, though not with a design to effect death; or in killing a person purposely and without previous deliberation.  The less aggravated cases of murder, are in some states distinguished as murder in the second degree, and punished by imprisonment for a long term, or for life.

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The Government Class Book from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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