19th-century Penal Congresses: Peddlers at Fares

face of a prisoner

Eminent Italian jurist Martino Beltrani Scalia in 1869 described penal congresses as “mere academies” in which participants acted like peddlers at fares.^ According to this account, participants hawked their ideas, and were not open to discarding the ideas that they possessed. Deliberation can lead to polarization of views.^ That outcome is less likely for deliberation among intellectual elites. Intellectual elites have a common interest in avoiding conflicts that undermine their knowledge authority as a group in broader public discourse. In retrospect, nineteenth-century penal debates among elites had merely superficial disagreements and an astonishingly underlying consensus on suppressing prisoners’ communications.

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