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one crime by the perpetration of another.Thus, whilst the criminal disposition remains, the severest denunciations of punishment will be insufficient. The only effectual security against criminality must ultimately depend on those moral inducements and better dispositions which operate equally in darkness as in light. “ Violent punishments,” says Burgh, “ become familiar, and are despised-a people are to be led like rational creatures, not to be driven like brutes. The severest punishment, under a mild administration, would be to convince the offender he has committed a foul crime."
It seems indeed a strange inconsistency in some writers on this subject, that whilst they contend that punishment is of no avail when used for the purpose of reformation, they still suppose that it may be advantageously resorted to for the purpose of deterring others from crimes. Thus, Dr. Paley informs us, that "the end of punishment is two-fold, amendment and example ; in the first of these, the reformation of criminals, litile,” says he,“ has ever been effected, and little, I fear, is practicable. From every species of punishment that has hitherto been devised, from imprisonment and exile, from pain and infamy, malefactors return more hardens ed in their crimes and more instructed.” But, if punishment will not deter the offender hin
self, upon whom it is inflicted, from a repetition of his offence, how can the example of such punishment be expected to deter others from a similar crime?
There is indeed great reason to fear that this opinion of the utility of example, has been carried much too far. It is the prerogative of the Supreme Being alone to pierce through the veil of futurity, and to know that the object in view will be accomplished; and it is this alone that can authorize the infliction of immediate and positive pain for the purpose of obtaining some remote or contingent good. To put a person to death, ostensibly for an offence which deserves only a slighter punishment, but in fact, in the expectation of deterring others from the perpetration of similar crimes, is a degree of presumption very unsuitable to the weakness and imperfection of our nature; yet, we not only put persons to death for the sake of example, who would not have been executed for the crime itself, but openly avow this motive.* The inconsiderate and sanguinary
* Take for instance the story, so often repeated, and so much relied on, that when a man convicted at Hertford Assizes of horse-stealing, complained, that it was cruel to hang him for only stealing a horse, the judge told him, that he was not to be hanged for only stealing a horse ; but, that horses
law-giver takes it for granted, that severe and horrible punishments will deter others from the commission of crimes ; but, has it never occurred to him, that by exhibiting frequent and revolting spectacles of inhumanity and bloodshed, he has counteracted his own object, and weakened in the public mind that natural reluctance to the shedding of human blood, which is one of the great safeguards of civil society? In order to demonstrate to a people, that they ought not to be cruel, he sets an example of cruelty; and,' in order to deter them from putting each other to death, he puts them to death himself; and that frequently by such acts of inhuman atrocity and savage barbarity, as the most ferocious criminal was never known to commit;'till the common decency no less than the common 'feelings of mankind revolt against the abuse; and it becomes a matter
might not be stolen. Now, if the criminal was not hanged for stealing a horse, he was unjustly put to death. Whether the example might deter others from a similar offence was uncertain; but, it was certain, that a human being was put to death for the chance of preventing another from stealing a horse. Yet, the sanguinary author of “ Thoughts on Executive Justice," wishes the judges' to carry this unswer with them whenever they go the circuit, and to bear it in their minds, as containing a wise reason for all the penal statutės which they are called upon to put in erecution.
of doubt, whether the detestation of the punishment does not exceed the detestation of the crime.
Example can only be legitimately obtained through the medium of justice; but as there is no rule to determine what degree of punishment is necessary to be inflicted in order to deter others from crimes, legislators have in all ages been induced to carry punishments to their greatest possible extent, so as to make examples still more horrible and striking;* and thus, this idea, of the prevention of crimes by the severity of punishments, when carried to such a degree, has been a principal cause of the calamities of the human race, and has rendered the world a constant theatre of injustice and bloodshed.
But whilst severe punishments are ineffectually resorted to, for the purpose of securing society from injury, they serve to deteriorate and degrade the public character, and to weaken in the people at large those dispositions which ought to be cherished with the greatest care.-Nor is it the lower classes alone, whose moral feelings are corrupted and whose sensi
* At the Lancaster spring assizes, 1818, no less than fortyfour persons received sentence of death, four of whom were executed for forging or uttering bank of England notes. The judge afterwards observed to Sir Janies Mackintosh, that unless some other means were deoised, it would be necessary to make eramples still more horrible and striking.
bilities are destroyed, by the establishment of systems of severity and terror.-As the contest increases between obstinacy and crime on the one hand, and resentment and cruelty on the other, a similar effect is produced on every rank of society; all of whom become, by degrees, prepared to inflict, to suffer, or to witness, every extreme of violence. The result of the destructive maxim, that mankind are to be kept in awe by terror alone, then becomes apparent; and desolation and death stalk abroad through the city at noonday. Such were the times when Henry VIII. sat upon the throne of England, employed in devising the most plausible pretexts, and the most horrible modes of destroying his people; whilst the judges and peers of the land, became the ready instruments of his most cruel measures. The number of executions in bis reign is stated to have been seventy-two thousand persons, being upwards of two thousand in a year, who perished by the axe, by the halter, in the dungeon, or in the flames. So true it is, that the general assent of a people to sanguinary laws, diffuses and maintains a sanguinary spirit throughout the country, which equally infects the rulers and the people, and becomes a more destructive, because a more permanent calamity, than famine, pestilence, or
But it is unnecessary to adduce arguments