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Such are some of the considerations to which we must attend, if we wish to contribute to lay the foundation of order, decency, and morality amongst the lower ranks of the community.* When these causes are effectually removed, the career of improvement will not only be found easy, but rapid. The disgrace,

of age !

young and old are all mixed indiscriminately together, 399 boys under twenty, were confined for felonies in the last year; of whom one was of nine, two were of ten, seven of eleven, fourteen of twelve, and thirty-two of thirteen years,

“ The condition of these poor children,” says the Report, “is of all others the most deplorable. Numbers are brought up to thieve as a trade, are driven into the streets every morning, and dare not return home without plunder; others are orphans, or completely abandoned by their parents, who subsist by begging and pilfering, and at nights sleep under the sheds in the streets, and in the market places; when in prison, no one visits them, nor do they seem to possess one friend in the world. They are occasionally treated with severity;" sometimes severely flogged, and then, without a shilling in their pockets, turned loose upon the world more hardened in their character than ever.Rep. p. 501. And see the very important evidence of the Hon. H. G. Bennet, given to the Committee of which he was chair.,

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* « Till all the ways are exhausted by which the morals and manners of a people can be reformed, the existence of an augmented state of crime, the severity of penal law, and the frequency of capital punishment, are evidences little creditable to the system of which such evils are the result.” Report of Police Committec, p. 502.

inconvenience, and expense that attend the present state of our judicial administration, have been most severely felt in every district of the country; and a very general and earnest desire to remedy these evils by the adoption of wise, temperate, and beneficent measures, is prevailing more and more throughout the kingdom. In the encouragement of this sentiment, the government itself cannot but be desirous to concur. In exalting the character, and promoting the prosperity of the country, every administration must find its best and only permanent reward; and as long as measures are adopted which tend to convince the nation that these objects are faithfully pursued, the narrow prejudices of party distinctions will be lost in the increasing prosperity of the country ; whilst any proceedings unfavourable to the career of this moral improvement, cannot but be viewed with jealousy and dissatisfaction, as a remnant of that absurd and exploded doctrine, that the security of government is founded on the ignorance and debasement of the people.

To enumerate the various measures that might be adopted for reforming the morals and improving the condition of the country, would here be superfluous. They will be found in the volumes before referred to, and in other valuable reports and proceedings of the Com

mittees of the late Parliament, as well as in the publications of other enlightened bodies of individuals, who either voluntarily, or by authority, have associated together for the purpose of obtaining information on these subjects; and who, to the selection of the most important facts, have frequently added their own judicious opinions and useful recommendations. Amongst the modes suggested or approved by them, is the extension of moral and religious education to indigent youth; the establishment of Houses of Industry and Penitentiaries for the reformation of criminals, and of places of refuge for destitute females: the protection of infant labourers and manufacturers against the avarice of their employers, and of apprentices against the neglect of their masters. The improvement of prison discipline; the distribution of the sacred writings and books of instruction, such as tend to diffuse sentiments of morality, religion, and mutual good will amongst the poor ; with various other improvements, which may sufficiently shew that the cause of order, decency, and morality; the cause of true religion and of mankind is not hopeless; and that the reformation of the world does not wholly depend on the equivocal aid afforded by the example of sanguinary punishments.

38

ON THE PUNISHMENT OF DEATH..

If it be true, as before stated, that the proper object of human punishment is the reformation of the offender, it will follow as a necessary consequence that it is not allowable under any combination of circumstances to put a fellow creature to death.

In order to prevent the perpetration of sanguinary crimes it seems in the first place necessary, that the legislature should shew its abhorrence of the shedding of blood, and should inculcate, in the strongest manner, a sacred regard for human life.

A sentiment of this nature, impressed upon the feelings of a people, would be more efficacious in preventing the crime of murder, than the severest punishments.

Cicero calls his country Parens communis, ---what should we think of a parent who corrects his child by putting him to death ?

“ The case of a civil ruler and his subject,” says a sensible and energetic writer, “ is much like that of a father and his minor son. If the

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son behave himself unseemly, the father may correct him. If after all due admonitions, and corrections, the son should prove to be incorrigible, the father may expel him from his family, and he may disinherit him; but he may not kill him. All civil as well as parental punishments ought to be mild, humane, and corrective ; not vindictive, inhuman, and extir

: pating. They ought to be merciful, not rigorous; proportionate to the crime, not excessive; and tend to the reformation of the delinquent, but not to his destruction; and should be inflicted with reluctance, love, and affection; not with passion, hard-heartedness, and asperity. The highest encomium that can be bestowed on good rulers is when we style them, the fathers of their subjects, and the protectors of their rights."*

It is remarkable that those persons on whom the example of capital punishments is chiefly intended to operate, are usually such as have manifested the most striking disregard to their own lives; consequently, those upon whom the idea of the punishment of death is likely to make the least impression. A person who voluntarily places himself before the aim of a pistol, cannot

* Essays on Capital Punishments. Philadel. 1811. Republished by Basil Montagu, Esq. in his Collection of Opinions on the Punishment of Death. Vol. i. p. 159.

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