Do you think politicians have never made ridiculous laws and enforce absurd punishments? Oh, you sweet naive theoretical person. For anyone caught up in the craziness of modern politics, I’d like to share some of history’s most ridiculous laws and their effects.
5) Books are Imprisoned in Pre-Revolutionary France
When you think about the French Revolution, what comes to mind? A whole bunch of guillotines and terrorized citizens? An Emperor of exaggerated shortness? What about the reason for all that guillotinin’?
Before the French Revolution, France was divided into three estates, or classes. Each were privileged under private law (the definition of privilege) and for those born at the bottom, you started from the bottom and you died there, as well as all of your descendants. The first and second estates were the nobility (those who fight, soldiers, generals); those who pray (the clergy and the church). The third estate was everybody else. That’s roughly 99% of the people. They were born with better, bluer blood, and that’s just tellin’ it how it is.
Started from the bottom now we here.
Now, if you were in the third estate, you had to pay the nobility for permission to work on their land, pay the royal taxes and the salt tax (which the first and second estates did not have to pay). You were also unable to talk about things such as “human rights” or “natural rights” of “equality” or “freedom”. If someone was to write a book that suggested that, hey, wait, maybe all people should be treated equally under the law, they were prone to arrest and imprisonment. And their books would be locked up, too, right there in the Bastille.
French philosophes were the driving idealists behind the period now known as the Enlightenment. It was a period in European history where traditional values and customs were being challenged by trendy notions of “logic” and “reason”. The French philosophes, Voltaire, Diderot, and Rousseau were the driving force behind the social scene, where the upper classes sat in fancy salons talking un-ironically about the Equality of Man, chugging like it was infused with sugar that was the product of slave labor in their overseas colonies. But if you wrote any of this down, the King would haul you and your fucking pamphlet and books into the slammer. He did the same to the Marquis de Sade, the E.L. James of his day, except for the talent, wit and talent. Did I mention talent?
#4 – Tsar Nicholas I Sentences a Boat to Death (for Treason)
After his father Alexander II got exploded on the 8th assassination attempt (suck it, Lincoln!) his son, Nicholas I, instead of the presumed heir Konstantine, would exceed to the throne. Nicholas was, a bit conservative. Even for an autocrat. The first thing he did was roll-back all of his father’s reforms, such as the zemtsvos (which it has been noted may have grown into state legislatures), along with some literary independence (writing the wrong portrayal of, say, any other Russian Tsar, would get you exploded. As for Alex “il Duce’ Romanov, he has come to be known as the Great Liberator, after he freed the serfs in 1861, 3 years before Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.