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American Mystery Stories

Adventure Of The Black Fisherman
An Heiress From Redhorse
By The Waters Of Paradise
Horror: A True Tale
Introduction To The Corpus Delicti
My Wife's Tempter
The Corpus Delicti
The Gold-bug
The Golden Ingot
The Man And The Snake
The Minister's Black Veil
The Oblong Box
The Shadows On The Wall
Wieland's Madness
Wolfert Webber Or Golden Dreams

The Lock And Key Library

A Case Of Identity
A Conjurer's Confessions
A Flight Into Texas
A Formidable Weapon
A Mystery With A Moral
A Scandal In Bohemia
A Wish Unexpectedly Gratified
Addressed To The Advocate Who Defended Him At His Trial
Adventure Of The Black Fisherman
Adventures In The Secret Service Of The Post-office Department
An Aspirant For Congress
An Erring Shepherd
An Heiress From Redhorse
An Old Game Revived
Bourgonef
By The Waters Of Paradise
Deception Explained By The Science Of Psychology
Facing The Arab's Pistol
Fact And Fable In Psychology
Fraudulent Spiritualism Unveiled[1]
His Wedded Wife
Horror: A True Tale
How Spirits Materialize
How The Tricks Succeeded
In The House Of Suddhoo
Introduction To A Mystery With A Moral
Introduction To Melmoth The Wanderer
Introduction To The Corpus Delicti
Matter Through Matter
Melmoth The Wanderer
Mind Reading In Public
My Own True Ghost Story
My Wife's Tempter
No 1 Branch Line: The Signal-man
On Being Found Out
Saint-germain The Deathless
Second Sight
Some Famous Exposures
The Avenger
The Baron's Quarry
The Closed Cabinet
The Corpus Delicti
The Dream Woman
The Fortune Of Seth Savage
The Fowl In The Pot
The Gold-bug
The Golden Ingot
The Great Valdez Sapphire
The Haunted And The Haunters Or The House And The Brain
The Hostler's Story Told By Himself
The Incantation
The Lost Duchess
The Magician Who Became An Ambassador
The Man And The Snake
The Man In The Iron Mask
The Methods Of A Doctor Of The Occult
The Minister's Black Veil
The Minor Canon
The Mortals In The House
The Name Of The Dead
The Notch On The Ax - A Story A La Mode
The Oblong Box
The Pavilion On The Links
The Pipe
The Puzzle
The Red-headed League
The Sending Of Dana Da
The Shadows On The Wall
The Story Continued By Percy Fairbank
Wieland's Madness
Wolfert Webber Or Golden Dreams



Introduction To The Corpus Delicti








The high ground of the field of crime has not been explored; it has
not even been entered. The book stalls have been filled to
weariness with tales based upon plans whereby the DETECTIVE, or
FERRETING power of the State might be baffled. But, prodigious
marvel! no writer has attempted to construct tales based upon plans
whereby the PUNISHING power of the State might be baffled.

The distinction, if one pauses for a moment to consider it, is
striking. It is possible, even easy, deliberately to plan crimes
so that the criminal agent and the criminal agency cannot be
detected. Is it possible to plan and execute wrongs in such a
manner that they will have all the effect and all the resulting
profit of desperate crimes and yet not be crimes before the law?

We are prone to forget that the law is no perfect structure, that
it is simply the result of human labor and human genius, and that
whatever laws human ingenuity can create for the protection of men,
those same laws human ingenuity can evade. The Spirit of Evil is
no dwarf; he has developed equally with the Spirit of Good.

All wrongs are not crimes. Indeed only those wrongs are crimes in
which certain technical elements are present. The law provides a
Procrustean standard for all crimes. Thus a wrong, to become
criminal, must fit exactly into the measure laid down by the law,
else it is no crime; if it varies never so little from the legal
measure, the law must, and will, refuse to regard it as criminal,
no matter how injurious a wrong it may be. There is no measure of
morality, or equity, or common right that can be applied to the
individual case. The gauge of the law is iron-bound. The wrong
measured by this gauge is either a crime or it is not. There is no
middle ground.

Hence is it, that if one knows well the technicalities of the law,
one may commit horrible wrongs that will yield all the gain and all
the resulting effect of the highest crimes, and yet the wrongs
perpetrated will constitute no one of the crimes described by the
law. Thus the highest crimes, even murder, may be committed in
such manner that although the criminal is known and the law holds
him in custody, yet it cannot punish him. So it happens that in
this year of our Lord of the nineteenth century, the skillful
attorney marvels at the stupidity of the rogue who, committing
crimes by the ordinary methods, subjects himself to unnecessary
peril, when the result which he seeks can easily be attained by
other methods, equally expeditious and without danger of liability
in any criminal tribunal. This is the field into which the author
has ventured, and he believes it to be new and full of interest.

It may be objected that the writer has prepared here a text-book
for the shrewd knave. To this it is answered that, if he instructs
the enemies, he also warns the friends of law and order; and that
Evil has never yet been stronger because the sun shone on it.


[See Lord Hale's Rule, Russell on Crimes. For the law in New York
see 18th N. Y. Reports, 179; also N. Y. Reports, 49, page 137. The
doctrine there laid down obtains in almost every State, with the
possible exception of a few Western States, where the decisions are
muddy.]





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Previous: The Shadows On The Wall



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