« ElőzőTovább »
the sentence, is of great importance to the prisoners ; for it operates as a certificate for them of their amendment to the world at large. Hence no stigma is attached to them for having been the inhabitants of a prison. It may be observed, also, that some of the most orderly and industrions, and such as have worked at the most profitable trades, have had sums of money to take on their discharge, by which they have been able to maintain themselves honestly, till they could get into employ.
Such was the state, and such the manner of execution, of the penal laws of Pennsylvania, as founded upon quakerprinciples. So happy have the effects of this new system already been, that it is supposed it will be adopted by the other American states. May the example be universally followed! May it be universally received as a truth, that true policy is inseparable from virtue; that in proportion as principles become lovely on account of their morality, they will become beneficial when acted upon, both to individuals and to states; or that legislators cannot raise a constitution upon su fair and firm a foundation as upon the gospel of Jesus Christ!
SIR THOMAS MORE.
PUBLISHED ABOUT THE YEAR 1520.
was then much obliged to that Reverend Prelate John Morton, Archbishop of Canterbury, Cardinal, and Chancellor of England; a man, said he, Peter (for Mr. More knows well what he was) that was not less venerable for his wisdom and wirtues, than for the high character he bore; he was of a
middle stature, not broken with age, his looks begot reverence rather than fear; his conversation was easy, but serious and grave ; he sometimes took pleasure to try the force of those that came as suitors to him upon business, by speaking sharply, though decently to them, and by that he discovered their spirit and presence of mind ; with which he was much delighted, when it did not grow up to impudence, as bearing a great resemblance to his own tenper; and he looked on such persons as the fitiest men for affairs. He spoke both gracefully and weightily ; he was eminently skilled in the law, had a vast understanding, and a prodigious memory : and those excellent talents with which nature had furnished him, were improved by study and experience. When I was in England the king depended much on his councils, and the government seemed to be chiefly supported by him; for from his youth, he had been all along practised in affairs ; and having passed through many traverses of fortune, he had with great cost acquired a vast stock of wisdom, which is not soon lost, wlien it is purchased so dear. One day when I was dining with him, there happened to be at table one of the Englis! lawyers, who took occasion to run out in a high commendation of the severe execution of justice upon thieves, who, as lie said, were then hanged so fast, that there were sometimes twenty on one gibbet ; and upon that he said, he could not wonder enough how it came to pass, that since so few escaped, there were yet so many thieves left who were still robbing in all places. Upon this, I who took the boldness to speak freely before the cardinal, said, there was no reason to wonder at the matter, since this way of punishing thieves, was neither just in itself, nor good for the public ; for as the severity was too great, so the remedy was not effectual : simple theft not being so great a crime, that it ought to cost a mian his life; no punishment how severe soever, being able to restrain those from robbing, who can find out no other way of livelihood. In this, said I, not only you in England,
but a great part of the world, imitate some ill masters, that are readier to chastise their scholars, than to teach them. There are dreadful punishments enacted against thieves, but it were much better to make such gocd provisions, by which every man might be put in a method how to live, and so be preserved from the fatal necessity of stealing, and of lying for it,
There is then a long discussion between the parties, upon the causes of theft-ühich concludes in the jolliwing munner.
If you do not find a remedy to these evils, it is a vain thing to boast of your severity in punishing theft ; which though it may have the appearance of justice, yet in itself is neither just nor convenient : for if you suffer your people to be ill educated, and their manners to be corrupted from their infancy, and then punish them for those crimes, to which their first education disposed them, what else is to be concluded from this, but that you first make thieves, and then punish them.
While I was talking thus, the councellor who was present had prepared an answer, and had resolved to resume all I had said, according to the formality of a debale, in which things are generally repeated more faithfully than they are answered; as if the chief trial to be made, were of men's memories. You have talked prettily for a stranger, said he, having heard of many things among us, which you have not been able to consider well: but I will make the whole matter plain to you, and will first repeat in order all that you have said, then I will shew how much your ignorance of our affairs has misled you, and will in the last place answer all your arguments. And that I may begin where I promised, there were four things—hold your peace, said the cardinal, this will take up too much time; therefore we will at present ease you of the trouble of answering, and reserve it to our next mecting, which shall be to-morrow, if Raphael's affairs and your's can admit of it: but Raphael, said he to me, I would gladly know upon what reason
it is, that you think theft ought not to be punished by death? Would you give way to it? Or do you propose any other punishment that will be more useful to the public ? For since death does not restrain theft, if men thought their lives would be safe, what fear or force could restrain ill men ? On the contrary, they would look on the mitigation of the punishment, as an invitation to commit more crimes. I answered, it secms to me a very unjust thing to take away a man's life for a little money; for nothing in the world can be of equal value with a man's life: and if it is said, that it is not for the money that one suffers, but for his breaking the law ; I must say, extreme justice is an extreme injury : for we ought not to approve of these terrible laws that make the smallest offences capital; nor of that opinion of the stoicks, that makes all crimes equal, as if there were no difference to be made between the killing a inan, and the taking his purse, between which, if we examine things impartially, there is no likeness nor proportion. God has commanded us not to kill, and shall we kill so easily for a little money? But if one shall say, that by that law we are only forbid to kill any, except when the laws of the land allow of it; upon the same grounds, laws may be made in some cases to allow of adultery and perjury : for God having taken from us the right of disposing, either of our own, or of other peoples lives, if it is pretended that the mutual consent of men in making laws, can authorize manslaughter in cases in which God has given us no example, that it frees people from the obligation of the divine law, and so makes murder a lawful action; what is this, but to give a preference to human laws before the divine ? And if this is once aclmitted, by the same rule, men may in all other things put what restrictions they please upon the laws of God. If by the Mosaical law, though it was rough and severe, as being a yoke laid upon an obstinate and servile nation, inen were only fined, and not put to death for theft; we cannot imagine that in this new law of mercy, in which God treats us with the tenderness of a father, he has
given us a greater licence to cruelty than he did to the Jews. Upon these reasons it is that I think putting thieves to death is not lawful; and it is plain and obvious that it is absurd, and of ill
consequence to the commonwealth, that a thief and a murderer should be equally punished : for if a robber sees that his danger is the same if he is convicted of theft, as if he were guilty of murder, this will natura:ly incite him to kill the person whom otherwise he would only have robbed, since if the punishment is the same, there is more security, and less danger of discovery, when he that can best make it is put out of the way; so that terrifying thieves too much, provokes them to cruelty.
But as to the question, what more convenient way of punishment can be found ? I think that it is much more easy to find out that, than to invent any thing that is worse ; why should we doubt but the way that was so long in use among the old Romans, who understood so well the arts of government, was very proper for their punishment ? They condeinned such as they found guilty of great crimes, to work their whole lives in quarries, or to dig in mines with chains about them. But the method that I liked best, was that which I observed in my travels in Persia, among the Polylerits, who are a considerable and well governed people. They pay a yearly tribute to the king of Persia ; but in all other respects they are a free nation and governed by their own laws. They lie far from the sca, and are environed with hills; and being contenteil with the productions of their own country, which is very fruitful, they have little commerce with any other nation ; and as they, according to the genius of their country, have no inclination to enlarge their borders, so their mountains, and the pension they pay to the Persian, secure them from all invasions. Thus they have no wars among them; they live rather conveniently than with splendour, and may be rather called an happy nation, than either eminent or famous : for I do not think