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solution to get rid of their misery, or cease to live.
Let us for a moment attend to the reasoning of a robber or assassin, wiro is deterred from violating the laws by the gibbet or the wheel. He reasons thus: “ What are these laws that I am " bound to respect, which make so great a diffe-.
rence between me and the rich mian? He re“ fuses me the fartliing I ask of him, and excuses
himself, by bidding me have recourse to labour: “ with which he is unacquainted. Who made " these laws? The rich and the great, who never
deigned to visit the miserable hut of the poor; “ who have never seen him dividing a piece of os mouldy breaci amidst the cries of his famished of children and the tears of his wife. Let us 6 break those ties fatal to the greatest part of
mankind, and useful only to a few indolent
tyrants. Let us attack injustice at its source. “ I will return to my natural state of indepen“ 'dence. I shall live free and happy on the fruits “ of my courage and industry. A day of pain " and repentance may come, but it will be short; « and for an hour of grief I shall enjoy years of “ pleasure and liberty. King of a small numbet,
as determined as niyself, I will correct the mis“ takes of fortune; and I shall sce those tyrants
grow pale and tremble at the sight of him, " whom with insulting pride they would not suf“ fer to rank with their dogs and horses."
Religion then presents itself to the mind, and promising him almost a certainty of eternal hapa
piness upon the easy terms of repentance, contributes greatly to lessen the horror of the last scene of the tragedy.
The punishment of death is pernicious to society, from the exainple of barbarity it affords. If the passions, or the necessity of war, have taugh¢ men to shed the blood of their fellow creatures, the laws, which are intended to moderate the ferocity of mankind, should not increase it by examples of barbarity, the more horrible as this
pu: nishment is usually attended with formal pageantry. ...Is it not absurd that the laws, which detest and punish homicide, should, in order to prevent murder, publicly commit murder themselves ? What are the natural sentiments of every person concerning the punishment of death? We may read them in the contempt and indignation with which every one looks on the executioner ; who is nevertheless an innocent executor of the public will? What then is the origin of this contradiction? Why is this sentiment of mankind indelible? It is, that in a secret corner of the inind, in which the original impressions of nature are still preserved, nien discover a sentiment which tells them, that their lives are not lawfully in the power of any one, but of that necessity only, which, with its iron sceptre, rules the universe.
What must men think when they see wise magistrates and grave ministers of justice, with indifference and tranquility, dragging a criminal to death, and whilst a wretch trembles with agony, expecting the fatal stroke, the judge who has con
demned him, with the coldest insensibility, and perhaps, with no ernall gratification from the exertion of his authority, quits his tribunal to enjoy the comforts and pleasures of life? They will say: “Ah! those cruel formalities of justice are
a cloak to tyranny; they are a secret language,
a solemn veil, intended to conceal the sword by s which we are sacrificed to the insatiable idol of “ despotism. Murder, which they would repre. :
sent to us as an horrible crime, we see practised by them without repugnance or remorse.
Let “ us follow their example. A violent death ap
peared terrible in their descriptions, but we see " that it is the affair of a moment. It will be “ still less terrible to him, who, not expecting it,
escapes alınost all the pain.” Such is the fatal though absurd reasoning of men who are disposed to commit criines.
If it be objected, that almost all nations in all ages have punished certain crimes with death; I answer, that the force of these examples vanishes, when opposed to truth, against which prescription is urged in vain. The history of mankind is an immense sea of errors, in which a few. obscure truths may here and there be found.
As ten inillions of circles can never make a square, so the united voice of myriads cannot lend the smallest foundation to falsehood. It were to be wished then that, instead of cutting away wretches as useless, before we have tried their uti
lity, [and thus] converting correction into vengeance, it were to be wished that we tried the restrictive arts of government; and made the law the protector, and not the tyrant of the public. We should then find that creatures, whose souls are held as dross, only wanted the land of a refiner; we should then find that wretches now stuck up for long tortures, lest luxury should feel a momentary pang, might, if properly treated, serve to sinew the state in times of danger; that, as their faces are like ours, cheir hearts are so too; that few minds are so base as that perseverance cannot amend; that a man may see his last crime without dying for it; and that very little blood will serve to cement our security.
Vicar of Wakefield, cb. xxvii. The punishment of criminals should be of use; when a man is hanged he is good for nothing.
Pbilosopb. Dict. Art. Civil Laws. Penal laws pressed are a shower of snares upon
LORD BACON, Works, vol. iii. p. 377.
THERE are two capital faults in our law with relation to civil debts. One is, that every man iş presumed solvent. A presumption, in innumerable cases, directly against the truth. Therefore the debtor is ordered, on a supposition of ability and fraud, to be coerced his liberty until he makes payment. By this means, in all cases of civil insolvency, without a pardon from his creditor, he is to be imprisoned for life ;—and thus a miserable mistaken invention of artificial science, operates to change a civil into a criminal judgment, and to scourge misfortune or indiscretion with a punishment which the law does not inflict on the
The next fault is, that the inflicting of that punishment is not on the opinion of an equal and public judge; but is referred to the arbitrary discretion of a private, nay interested, and irri
, stantially ought to be, the judge, is in reality no more than ministerial, a mere executive instrument of a private man, who is at once judge and party. Every idea of judicial order is subverted