AMNESTY is a word derived from the Greek amnatia, which, literally, signifies nothing more than non remembrance. The word amnestia is not used by the earlier Greek writers ; but the thing intended by it was ex pressed by the verbal form OA tamely). The word ikµvnaria occurs in Plutarch and Herodian. Some critics suppose that Cicero (Philipp. i. 1) al ludes to his having used the word ; but he may have expressed the thing with out using the word amnesties It occurs in the life of Aurelian by Vopiscus (c. 39), according to some editions in the Latin form, but it is possible that Vopis ens wrote the word in Greek characters, and it is doubtful whether the word was ever incorporated into die Latin Ian.
game. Nepos, in his life of Thrasybulus (c. 3), expresses the notion of an act of Amnesty by the words " lex oblivionis," and it is clear from a passage in Valerius Maximus (iv. 1), that the word was not adopted into the Latin language when I Valerius wrote, whatever that time may be.
The notion of an amnesty among the Greeks was a declaration of the person or persons who had newly acquired or recovered the sovereign power in a state, by which they pardoned all persons who composed, supported, or obeyed the go vernment which had been just over thrown. A declaration of this kind may be either absolute and universal, or it may except certain persons specifically named, or certain classes of persons gene. rally described. Thus, in Athens, when Thrasybulus had destroyed the oligarchy of the Thirty Tyrants, and had restored the democratical form of government, an exceptive amnesty of past political of fences was declared, from the operation of which the Thirty themselves, and some few persons who had acted in the most invidious offices under them, were excluded. (Xenophon, Hellen. ii. 4, 38; Isocrates, Against Callimaehus, c. 1.) So when Bonaparte returned from Elba in 1815, he published an amnesty, from which he excluded thirteen persons, whom he named in a decree published at Lyon. The act of indemnity, passed
upon the restoration of Charles II., by which the persons actually concerned in the execution of his father were excluded from the benefit of the royal and parlia mentary pardon, is an instance of an am nesty from which a class of persons were excepted by a general description and not by name. Of a like nature was the law passed by the French Chambers in January, 1816, upon the return of Louis XVIII. to the throne of France after the victory at Waterloo, which offered a com plete amnesty to " all persons who had directly or indirectly taken part in the rebellion and usurpation of Napoleon Bonaparte," with the exception of cer tain persons, whose names had been pre viously mentioned in a royal ordinance a the most active partisans of the usurper. It was objected to this French law of amnesty, that it did not point out with sufficient perspicuity the individuals who were to be excepted from its operation. Instead of confining itself to naming the offenders, it excepted whole classes of offences, by which means a degree of uncertainty and confusion was occasioned, which much retarded the peaceable set tlement of the nation. "In consequence of this course," says M. de Chateaubriand in a pamphlet published soon after the event, punishment and fear have been permitted to hover over France ; wounds have been kept open, passions exasperated, and recollections of enmity awakened." The act of indemnity, passed at the ac cession of Charles II., was not liable to this objection, by the distinctness of which, as Dr. Johnson said, "the flutter of innumerable bosoms was stilled," and a state of public feeling promoted, ex tremely favourable to the authority and quiet government of the restored prince.