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sibility. By an immutable law of our nature, distress of all kinds, when seen, produces sympathy, and a disposition to relieve it. This sympathy, in generous minds, is not lessened by the distress being the offspring of crimes : on the contrary, even the crimes themselves are often palliated by the reflection that they were the unfortunate consequences of extreme poverty-of salucing company--or of the want of a virtuous education, from the loss or negligence of parents in
While we pity, we secretly condemn the law which inflicts the punishment: hence', arises a want of respect for lys is. general, and a more feeble union of the great ties of goverr ment.
Athly. But it is possible the characters or conduct of criminals may be such, as to excite indignation or contempt instead of pity, in the minds of spectators. Let us there enquire, briefly, into the effects of these passions upon the human mind. Every body acknowledges our obligations to universal benevolence; but these cannot be fulfilled, unless we love the whole human race, however diversified they may be by weakness or crimes. The indignation or contempt which is felt for this unhappy part of the great family of mankind, must necessarily extinguish a large portion of this universal love.
It is the prerogative of God alone, to contemplate the vices of bad men, without withdrawing from them the support of his benevolence. Hence we find, when he appeared in the world, in the person of his Son, he did not exclude criminals from the benefits of his goodness. He dismissed a woman caught in the perpetration of a crime, which was capital by the Jewish law, with a friendly admonition: and he opened the gates of paradise to a dying thief.
5thly. But let us suppose, that criminals are viewed without sympathy-indignation-or contempt. This will be the case, either when the spectators are themselves hardened with vice, or when they are too young, or too ignorant, to connect the ideas of crimes and punishments together. Here, then, a new source of injury arises from the public nature of punishments. Every portion of them will appear, to spectators of this description, to be mere arbitrary acts of cruelty: hience will arise a disposition to exercise the same arbitrary cruelty over the feelings and lives of their fellow creatures. To see blows, or a halter, imposed in cold blood upon a criminal, whose passive behaviour, operating with the ignorance of the *pectators, indicates innocence more than vice, cannot fail of removing the natural obstacles to violence and murder in the human mind.
6thly. Public punishments make many crimes known to persons who would otherwise have passed through life in a total ignorance of them. They morcover produce such a familiarity, in the minds of spectators, with the crimes for · which they are inflicted, that, in some instances, they have been known to excite a propensity for them. It has been remarked that a certain immorality has always kept pace with public admonitions in the churches in the eastern states. In proportion as this branch of ecclesiastical discipline has declined, fewer children have been born out of wedlock.
7thly. Ignominy is universally acknowledged to be a worse punishment than death. Let it not be supposed, from this circumstance, that it operates more than the fear of death in preventing crimes. On the contrary, like the indiscriminate punishment of death, it not only confounds and levels all crimes, but by increasing the disproportion between crimes and punishments, it creates a hatred of all law and government; and thus disposes to the perpetration of every crime.
Laws can only be respected and obeyed, while they bear an exact proportion to crimes.--Tlie law which punishes the shooting of a swau with death, in England, has produced a thousand murders. Nor is this all the mischievous influence, which the punishment of ignominy has upon society. While murder is punished with death, the man who robs on the high-way, or breaks open a house, must want the common feelings and prineiples which belong to human nature, if he does not add murder to theft, in order to screen himself, if he should be detected, from that punishment which is acknowledged to be more terrible than death.
It would seem strange, that ignominy should cver have been adopted, as a milder punishment than death, did we not know that the human mind seldom arrives at truth upon any subject, till it has first reached the extremity of
Sthly. But may not the benefit derived to society, by employing criminals to repair public roads, or to clean sireets, over balance the evils that have been mentioned ? I answer, by no means. On the contrary, besides operating in ene, or in all the ways that have been described, the practice of employing criminals in public labour, will render labour of every kind disreputable; more especially that species of it, which has for its objects the convenience or improvement of the state. It is a well-known fact, that white men soon decline labour in the West Indies, and in the southern states, only because the agriculture, and mechanical employments of those countries, are carried on chiefly by negro slaves. But I object further to the employment of criminals on the high-ways and streets, from the idleness it will create, by alluring spectators from their business, and thereby depriving the state of greater benefits from the industry of its citizens, than it can cyer derive from the labour of crimunale. ..
The history of public punishments, in every age and country, is full of facts, which support every principle that has been advanced. What has been the operation of the
seventy thousand executions, that have taken place in Great | Britain from the year 1688, to the present day, upon the
morals, and manners of the inhabitants of that island ? Has not every prison-door that has been opened, to conduct criminals to public shame and punishment, unlocked, at the same time, the bars of moral obligation upon the minds of ten times the number of people? How often do we find pockets picked under a gallows, and highway robberies committed in sight of
a gibbet? From whence arose the conspiracies, with assassii nations and poisonings, which prevailed in the decline of the
Roman Empire? Were they not favoured by the public exe
cutions of the amphitheatre? It is therefore to the combined ľ operation of indolence, prejudice, ignorance, and the defect
of culture of the human heart, alone, that we are to ascribe
the continuance of public punishments, after such long and : multiplied experience of their inefficacy to reform bad men,
or to prevent the commission of crimes.
If punishments were moderate, just, and private, they would exalt the feelings of public justice and benevolence so far above the emotions of humanity in witnesses, juries and judges, that they would forget to conceal, or to palliate crimes : and the certainty of punishment, by extinguishing all hope of pardon in the criminal, would lead hiin to connect the beginning of his repentance with the last words of his sentence of condemnation. To obtain this great and salutarý end, there should exist certain portions of punishment, both in duration and degree, which should be placed by law beyond the power of the discretionary court before mentioned, to shorten or mitigate.
I have said nothing upon the manner of inflicting death as a punishment for crimes, because I consider it as an improper punishment for any crime.
crime. Even murder itself is propagated by the punishment of death for murder. Of this we have a remarkable proof in Italy. The duke of Tuscany soon after the publication of the marquis of Beccaria's excellent treatise upon this subject, abolished death as a punishment for murder, A gentleman, who resided five years at Pisa, informed me, that only five murders had been perpetrated in his dominions in twenty years. The same gentleman added, tbat after his residence in Tuscany, he spent three months in Rome, where death is still the punishment of murder, and where executions, according to Dr. Moore, are conducted with peculiar circumstances of public parade. During this short period, there were sixty murders committed in the precincts of that city. It is remarkable, the manners, principles, and religion, of the inhabitants of Tuscany and Rome, are exactly the same. The abolition of death alone, as a punishment for murder, produced this difference in the moral character of the two nations.
I suspect the attachment to death, as a punishment for murder, in minds otherwise enlightened, upon the subject of capital punishments, arises from a false interpretation of a passage contained in the old testament, and that is, “ he that sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed." This has been supposed to imply that blood could only be expiated by blood. But I am disposed to believe, with a late commentator* upon this text of scripture, that it is rather a prediction than a law. The language of it is simply, that such will be the depravity and folly of man, that murder, in every age, shall beget murder. Laws, therefore, which inflict
* The reverend Mr. William Turner, in the second vol. of Memoirs of the Literary and Philosophical Society of Manchester.