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Rothing to fear from the severity of the laws. To cheat a man of his whole estate at play, to murder his peace of mind by seducing the affections of his wife, to bring down the grey hairs of age with sorrow to the grave by debauching a beloved and only daughter, to sell a nation's dearest interests for a breath of popularity, or for the prostituted smiles of a minise ter, * though they are some of the blackest crimes which disgrace human nature, will never lead the authors of them to answer before a criminal tribunal. And yet to hear this writer's indignant exclamation against the monstrous wickedness of the “barbarous and injurious villains, t” who destroy our horses or our sheep, and his lamentations over the condition of the 66
poor, oppressed, violated, and innocent public,” one would suppose he imagined there could be no guilt, but what leads to the bar of a court of justice, no crimes but those which are often prompted by indigence and necessity, or by an inyoluntary sloth and ignorance. (a)
Ut, quo quisque valet, suspectos terreat ; utque
neque calce lupus quemquam, neque dente petit bos.
Nor can it be true, till the judgments of men become infallible, that the most regular, the most sober, and the most virtuous have nothing to dread from the severity of the laws; since, even in this country, where the writer seems to think the
* Fures privatorum furtorum in nervo atque in compedibus ætatem agunt : fures publici in auro atque in purpura. . Cato apud Aul. Gell. lib. xi. c. 18. + Thoughts, &c. p. 39. note, 1st. edit. p. 42. note, 2d. edit.
(a) Page 49
prevailing mode of trial so unreasonably favourable to the pris i r, * men have been executed for crimes of which they were perfectly innocent. But were it proved that wrong judgments are impossible, and that the guilty alone can fal] under the animadversion of the law, I would still deny the consequence which the obs rvation implies, and would quote upon this author the sentiment which he himself professes to adopt, humani nihil alienum. The worst criminal is still a man, and as such, entitled to justice ; the most irreproachable judge is no more than man, and therefore may at some time stand in need of mercy. (a)
The writer has taken pains to collect together a great variety of instances of villains having abused the royal mercy; and he does not seem to have found one solitary instance of a man's having been reclaimed by pardon, and saved from an ignominious death to become a useful and a worthy member of society. Nor would it be very surprising if he knew of no such instance; because, in the history of the vulgar, as well as of the great, it is the daring and the profligate who make the most conspicious figure. The crimes of the highwayman, and of the conqueror, of Cæsar, and of Cartouche, command the notice of mankind; while no regard is paid to the virtue, of the peaceful patriot, or of the industrious mechanic, who who never step out of the
Secretum iter, et fallentis semita vitæ. (b) The reformed thief, who sincerely resolves to atone for his past crimes by his industry and by the regular performance of all his social duties, from the moment he forms that resolution, ceases to attract the public attention. It does not fol
* See particularly his arguments against rejecting the testimony of accomplices, unsupported by other evidence. (a) Page 51.
(6) Page 59.
low, therefore, because tbe writer has found no such instance, that many do not exist. One has lately appeared, where one would last have sought for it, even at the Old Bailey. In the year 1782, a man was convicted of a robbery, and was condemned to die ; but, as there appeared in his case some favourable circumstances, his sentence was mitigated, and he was sent for seven years to work upon the Thames. In last May, however, he was again arraigned at the bar of the court for having been found at large before the term of his punishment had expired, and was again condemned to die. And what, the writer of the Thoughts will probably exclaim, can be said in favour of so incorrigible a villain ?- The facts proved
upon his trial, and which are these : the moment he had es. caped from the lighter, he addressed himself to a watchmaker, whom he entreated to teach him his business : the request was granted ; and the fugitive applied himself to his new trade with such indefatigable assiduity, that in a few weeks he gain. ed sufficient to support himself; and from that time, till the moment he was taken, he had employed himself in such unremitting labour, that he had not stirred out of his room for eight months together. † (a)
Examples, however, of this kind the writer probably thinks 80 very uncommon, that they ought not at all to shake the opinion, which he seems to entertain, that all who suffer are incorrigible ; for this is the only construction which can be put upon his motto, as applied to his system :
immedicabile vulnus Ense recidendum, ne pars sincera trahatur :
# Sess. pap. May, 1785, p. 700.
(a) Page 55. * Ovid. Met. lib. i. d. 190; and see the title page of the Appen. dix to the Thoughts, &c.
the curtailed and mutilated sentence of a licentious poet, which this severe author does not disdain to place in the front of his appendix, as an authority decisive of this important question. He must however forgive me if I restore what he has omitted, and what few persons, I believe, beside himself, will think unimportant.
CUNCTA PRIUS TENTATA ; sed immedicabile vulnus
Have all things then so unquestionably been tried, as to entitle this writer, without imputation, to suppress the former, and to insist only on the latter part of the sentence. He will perhaps, answer, that they liave; and because the punishment of working on the Thames 6 has been attended with an increase of all kinds of villainy,” he will hastily infer, that it is impossible ever to employ convicts in public labors with any good effect. But is it a just or a fair deduction, to conclude, that these men never can be employed with any advantage to the public, upon any scheme that can be imagined, because only public inconvenience has been found to result from the trial of one plan, which was ill imagined, and ill executed? To pronounce that to be impracticable which men have not perseverance or skill to put into practice, suits
+ 66 It is, it must be owned, much easier to extirpate than to amend mankind; yet that magistrate must be esteemed both a weak and a cruel surgeon, who cuts off every limb, which, through ig. norance or indolence, he will not attempt to cure.” 4 Blackst. Com. 17.-The author might have found, in the poet whom he cites, a motto much better suited to the spirit of his work, than that which he has chosen.
Ibimus in pænas, et qua vocat ira sequemur.
I Thoughts, &c. p. 75.
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well enough with modern indolence and presumption; but betrays, in all cases, a deficiency of wisdom, and, in those where the lives and the eternal happiness of individuals are concerned, a total want of humanity. (a)
The fact, however, is, that a plan for the punishment of criminals, has not only been imagined, but has even been adopted by the legislature, which seems to be wholly unobjectionable. •
A plan, which unites the advantages of a charitable with those of a penal institution, and has in view that important end of punishment, which has been overlooked in almost all our other laws-the reformation of the criminal : for, at the same time that it promises to subdue the fiercest and most ungovernable spirits by solitary confinement and continued labor, it would be a kind of asylum to that very large description of offenders, who are rendered such by the defects of education, by pernicious connexions, by indigence, or by despair. These it would keep apart from their infectious companions. It would instil into their minds principles of religion and morality, instruct them in useful trados, and fur. nish them with resources to become valuable members of society, when restored to their liberty. What it is that retards the execution of this excellent plan, it is not easy to con. jecture; for, though the expence of erecting the penitentiary houses would be considerable, yet that is surely but a trifling object, compared with the benefit which, as it should seem, must necessarily result to the country from such an institution. And, according to the calculations which have been made upon the subject, when the houses were once erected, the annu
* See the statute 19 Geo. III. c. 74, which was drawn by Sir William Blackstone and Mr. Eden. Howard's State of Pri. sons, last edit. p. 470. Many of the ideas in this act have been much improved in the admirable plans of Mr. Blackburne.
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