Click on any word to see more details.惟呂命：王享國百年，耄荒；度作刑以詰四方。
In reference to the charge to the marquis of Lu: When the king had occupied the throne till he reached the age of a hundred years, he gave great consideration to the appointment of punishments, in order to deal with (the people of) the four quarters.
The king said, 'According to the teachings of ancient times, Chi You was the first to produce disorder, which spread among the quiet, orderly people, till all became robbers and murderers, owl-like and yet self-complacent in their conduct, traitors and villains, snatching and filching, dissemblers and oppressors. Among the people of Miao, they did not use the power of goodness, but the restraint of punishments. They made the five punishments engines of oppression, calling them the laws. They slaughtered the innocent, and were the first also to go to excess in cutting off the nose, cutting off the ears, castration, and branding. All who became liable to those punishments were dealt with without distinction, no difference being made in favour of those who could offer some excuse. The people were gradually affected by this state of things, and became dark and disorderly. Their hearts were no more set on good faith, but they violated their oaths and covenants. The multitudes who suffered from the oppressive terrors, and were (in danger of) being murdered, declared their innocence to Heaven. God surveyed the people, and there was no fragrance of virtue arising from them, but the rank odour of their (cruel) punishments.
'The great Di compassionated the innocent multitudes that were (in danger of) being murdered, and made the oppressors feel the terrors of his majesty. He restrained and (finally) extinguished the people of Miao, so that they should not continue to future generations. Then he commissioned Zhong and Li to make an end of the communications between earth and heaven; and the descents (of spirits) ceased. From the princes down to the inferior officers, all helped with clear intelligence (the spread of) the regular principles of duty, and the solitary and widows were no longer overlooked.
'The great Di with an unprejudiced mind carried his enquiries low down among the people, and the solitary and widows laid before him their complaints against the Miao. He awed the people by the majesty of his virtue, and enlightened them by its brightness. He thereupon charged the three princely (ministers) to labour with compassionate anxiety in the people's behalf. Bo-yi delivered his statutes to prevent the people from rendering themselves obnoxious to punishment; Yu reduced to order the water and the land, and presided over the naming of the hills and rivers; Ji spread abroad a knowledge of agriculture, and (the people) extensively cultivated the admirable grains. When the three princes had accomplished their work, it was abundantly well with the people. The Minister of Crime exercised among them the restraint of punishment in exact adaptation to each offence, and taught them to reverence virtue. The greatest gravity and harmony in the sovereign, and the greatest intelligence in those below him, thus shining forth to all quarters (of the land), all were rendered diligent in cultivating their virtue. Hence, (if anything more were wanted), the clear adjudication of punishments effected the regulation of the people, and helped them to observe the regular duties of life. The officers who presided over criminal cases executed the law (fearlessly) against the powerful, and (faithfully) against the wealthy. They were reverent and cautious. They had no occasion to make choice of words to vindicate their conduct. The virtue of Heaven was attained to by them; from them was the determination of so great a matter as the lives (of men). In their low sphere they yet corresponded (to Heaven) and enjoyed (its favour)'.
The king said, 'Ah! you who direct the government and preside over criminal cases through all the land, are you not constituted the shepherds of Heaven? To whom ought you now to look as your pattern? Is it not to Bo-yi, spreading among the people his lessons to avert punishments? And from whom ought you now to take warning? Is it not from the people of Miao, who would not examine into the circumstances of criminal cases, and did not make choice of good officers that should see to the right apportioning of the five punishments, but chose the violent and bribe-snatchers, who determined and administered them, so as to oppress the innocent, until God would no longer hold them guiltless, and sent down calamity on Miao, when the people had no plea to allege in mitigation of their punishment, and their name was cut off from the world?'
The king said, 'Oh! lay it to heart. My uncles, and all ye, my brethren and cousins, my sons and my grandsons, listen all of you to my words, in which, it may be, you will receive a most important charge. You will only tread the path of satisfaction by being daily diligent; do not have occasion to beware of the want of diligence. Heaven, in its wish to regulate the people, allows us for a day to make use of punishments. Whether crimes have been premeditated, or are unpremeditated, depends on the parties concerned; do you (deal with them so as to) accord with the mind of Heaven, and thus serve me, the One man. Though I would put them to death, do not you therefore put them to death; though I would spare them, do not you therefore spare them. Reverently apportion the five punishments, so as fully to exhibit the three virtues. Then shall I, the One man, enjoy felicity; the people will look to you as their sure dependance; the repose of such a state will be perpetual.'
The king said, 'Ho! come, ye rulers of states and territories, I Will tell you how to make punishments a blessing. It is yours now to give repose to the people; what should you be most concerned about the choosing of? Should it not be the proper men? What should you deal with the most reverently? Should it not be punishments? What should you calculate the most carefully? Should it not be to whom these will reach?
'When both parties are present, (with their documents and witnesses) all complete, let the judges listen to the fivefold statements that may be made. When they have examined and fully made up their minds on those, let them adjust the case to one of the five punishments. If the five punishments do not meet it, let them adjust it to one of the five redemption-fines; and if these, again, are not sufficient for it, let them reckon it among the five cases of error.
'In (settling) the five cases of error there are evils (to be guarded against) - being warped by the influence of power, or by private grudge, or by female solicitation, or by bribes, or by applications. Any one of these things should be held equal to the crime (before the judges). Do you carefully examine, and prove yourselves equal to (every difficulty).
'When, in a doubtful case, the punishment of branding is forborne, the fine to be laid on instead is 600 ounces (of copper); but you must first have satisfied yourselves as to the crime. When the case would require the cutting off the nose, the fine must be double this - with the same careful determination of the crime. When the punishment would be the cutting off the feet, the fine must be 3000 ounces - with the same careful determination of the crime. When the punishment would be castration, the fine must be 3600 ounces - with the same determination. When the punishment would be death, the fine must be 6000 ounces - with the same determination. Of crimes that may be redeemed by the fine in lieu of branding there are 1000; and the same number of those that would otherwise-incur cutting off the nose. The fine in lieu of cutting off the feet extends to 500 cases; that in lieu of castration, to 300; and that in lieu of death, to 200. Altogether, set against the five punishments, there are 3000 crimes.
'(In the case of others not exactly defined), you must class them with the (next) higher or (next) lower offences, not admitting assumptive and disorderly pleadings, and not using obsolete laws. Examine and act lawfully, judging carefully, and proving yourselves equal (to every difficulty). Where the crime should incur one of the higher punishments, but there are mitigating circumstances, apply to it the next lower. Where it should incur one of the lower punishments, but there are aggravating circumstances, apply to it the next higher. The light and heavy fines are to be apportioned (in the same way) by the balance of circumstances. Punishments and fines should (also) be light in one age, and heavy in another. To secure uniformity in this (seeming) irregularity, there are certain relations of things (to be considered), and the essential principle (to be observed).
'The chastisement of fines is short of death, yet it will produce extreme distress. They are not (therefore) persons of artful tongues who should determine criminal cases, but really good persons, whose awards will hit the right mean. Examine carefully where there are any discrepancies in the statements; the view which you were resolved not to follow, you may see occasion to follow; with compassion and reverence settle the cases; examine carefully the penal code, and deliberate with all about it, that your decisions may be likely to hit the proper mean and be correct - whether it be the infliction of a punishment or a fine, examining carefully and mastering every difficulty. When the case is thus concluded, all parties will acknowledge the justice of the sentence; and when it is reported, the sovereign will do the same. In sending up reports of cases, they must be full and complete. If a man have been tried on two counts, his two punishments (must be recorded).'
The king said, 'Oh! let there be a feeling of reverence. Ye judges and princes, of the same surname with me, and of other surnames, (know all) that I speak in much fear. I think with reverence of the subject of punishment, for the end of it is to promote virtue. Now Heaven, wishing to help the people, has made us its representatives here below. Be intelligent and pure in hearing (each) side of a case. The right ordering of the people depends on the impartial hearing of the pleas on both sides - do not seek for private advantage to yourselves by means of those pleas. Gain (so) got by the decision of cases is no precious acquisition; it is an accumulation of guilt, and will be recompensed with many judgments: you should ever stand in awe of the punishment of Heaven. It is not Heaven that does not deal impartially with men, but men ruin themselves. If the punishment of Heaven were not so extreme, nowhere under the sky would the people have good government.'
The king said, 'Oh! ye who shall hereafter inherit (the dignities and offices of) the present time, to whom are ye to look for your models? Must it not be to those who promoted the virtue belonging to the unbiassed nature of the people? I pray you give attention to my words. The wise men (of antiquity) by their use of punishments obtained boundless fame. Everything relating to the five punishments exactly hit with them the due mean, and hence came their excellence. Receiving from your sovereigns the good multitudes, behold in the case of those men punishments made felicitous!'
English translation: James Legge
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