Victor Hugo was a strong advocate against the death penalty and social injustice. Today, in 1851, he was sentenced to a fine of 500 francs and six months imprisonment. His transgression was to write an article condemning capital punishment in the événement.
During his exile from France (1855 – 1870), Victor Hugo continued to advocate and was instrumental in removing the death penalty from the constitutions of Geneva, Portugal and Columbia.
“Plea Against the Death Penalty
Look, examine, reflect. You hold capital punishment up as an example. Why? Because of what it teaches. And just what is it that you wish to teach by means of this example? That thou shalt not kill. And how do you teach that “thou shalt not kill”? By killing.
I have examined the death penalty under each of its two aspects: as a direct action, and as an indirect one. What does it come down to? Nothing but something horrible and useless, nothing but a way of shedding blood that is called a crime when an individual commits it, but is (sadly) called “justice” when society brings it about. Make no mistake, you lawmakers and judges, in the eyes of God as in those of conscience, what is a crime when individuals do it is no less an offense when society commits the deed.”