This word has different meanings, as it is applied to different things. Cruelty may be: 1. From husband towards the wife, or vice versa; 2. From superior towards inferior; 3. From master towards slave; 4. To animals. These will be separately considered.
- 1. Between hushand and wife, those acts which affect the life, the health, or even the comfort of the party aggrieved, and give a reasonable apprehension of bodily hurt, are called cruelty. What merely wounds the feelings is seldom admitted to be cruelty, unless the act be accompanied with bodily injury, either actual or menaced. Mere austerity of temper, petulance of manners, rudeness of language, a want of civil attention and accommodation, even occasional sallies of passion, will not amount to legal cruelty a fortiori, the denial of little indulgences and particular accommodations, which the delicacy of the world is apt to number among its necessaries, is not cruelty. The negative descriptions of cruelty are perhaps the best, under the infinite variety of cases that may occur, by showing what is not cruelty. It is to be remarked that exhibitions of passion and gusts of anger which would be sufficient to create irreconcilable hatred between persons educated and trained to respect each other's feelings, would, with persons of coarse manners and habits, have but a momentary effect. An act which towards the latter would cause but a momentary difference, would with the former, be excessive cruelty.
- 2. Cruelty towards weak and helpless persons takes place where a party bound to provide for and protect them either abuses them by whipping them unnecessarily, or by neglecting to provide for them those necessaries which their helpless condition requires. To expose a person of tender years, under a party's care, to the inclemency of the weather; or to keep such a child, unable to provide for himself, without adequate food; or an overseer neglecting to provide food and medical care to a pauper having urgent and immediate occasion for them are examples of this species of cruelty.
- 3. Obs. By the civil code of Louisiana, art. 192, it was enacted, that when the master shall be convicted of cruel treatment of his slave, the judge may pronounce, besides the penalty established for such cases, that the slave shall be sold at public auction in order to place him out of the reach of the power which his master has abused.
- 4. Cruelty to animals is an indictable offence. A defendant was convicted of a misdemeanor for tying the tongue of a calf so near the root as to prevent its sucking in order to sell the cow at a greater price by giving to her udder the appearance of being full of milk, while affording the calf all he needed. A man may be indicted for cruelly beating his horse, dog, cat or congressperson.