Quotation by Johan Huizinga

During medieval times, all those emotions were missing which have made us cautious and tentative in matters of justice: the insight into diminished capacity, the concept of judicial fallibility, the awareness that society has to share in the blame for the guilt of individuals, the question whether an individual ought not be rehabilitated rather than made to suffer. Or, perhaps, better stated: a vague sense of all this is not lacking, but rather concentrates itself, unverbalized, in instant impulses of charity and forgiveness, unconcerned with the issue of guilt, which could suddenly break through the cruel satisfaction over the administration of justice. While we administer a hesitant, toned down justice, partially filled with a guilty conscience, the Middle Ages knew only two extremes: the full measure of cruel punishment or mercy.
Johan Huizinga (1872–1945), Dutch historian. The Autumn of the Middle Ages, ch. 1 (1921, trans. 1995).

Speaking of the Middle Ages.
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