« AnteriorContinua »
wandering without a testimonial, &c. dence, or other causes. "Now, the &c.) made capital in our statute book. innocence of such persons inay be,
Bnt it will be argued, that there and sometimes actually is, afterwards are several crimes, besides murder, for established, and if their lives were which the punishment of death is suit- spared, they might be reinstated in able and just. We will briefly con- their proper place in society, and some sider two of the foremost in this class compensation might be made to them of crimes; forgery and rape. That for their unjust sufferings. But if men are not very effectually restrained they had undergone the punishment from the crime of forgery, by the cer- of death, all means of repairing the tain loss of life upon detection and dreadful mistake would for ever be conviction, is proved beyond doubt by removed. The most earnest advocates a superabundance of lamentable facts. for capital punishments might feel a Then, is the punishment of death pe- treinor at the contemplation of a case culiarly called for by the atrocity of of this kind. But the other considethe offence? Surely not. This crime ration, to which I would refer, ought may, indeed, by an easy mode oc to have still more weight. Christians casion very extensive mischief, and believe in a future state of existence, therefore demands penalties of appro- where the wicked will endure punishpriute rigour. But might not these ment, compared to which the most be found in perpetual or long impri- severe of human penalties are beyond sonment, and hard labour, and hard expression light. Yet we send the fare, by which the criminal would ra- criminal, at no distant period after ther be put to make amends, than, conviction, and sometimes within for. strictly speaking, to atone for his of- ty-eight hours, to this unseen world. fence ? Public justice, methinks, Ministers of religion, undeubtedly, would by these means be fully satis- attend him, and prescribe repentance, fied, and policy no less consulted. and administer religious rites, and disAs to the other crime that bas been course of salvation through the Re mentioned, the duty and importance deemer of sinners. But can we hope of protecting female chastity from that repentance often takes place brutal violation admit of no dispute. within the utmost period now allowed Our laws in relation to female chas- between sentence and execution, and tity, in general, may, indeed, be con- especially within the forty-eight hours sidered as rather curious, punishing afforded, where the crime has been of rape with death, and making adultery the deepest dye? Let us not be de the subject of a civil action! But, ceived, nor blindly commit irreparable apart from such considerations, we and awful injury where we profess may justly, very justly, doubt whether only to award justice. rape ought to be punished with death; The punishinent of death has been although, like forgery, requiring to be particularly adverted to as being the restrained with a strong hand, on ac- highest penalty known to our laws, count of the violence of that passion and as involving the inost important: which might lead to the crime, and its consequences. But our argument lies. injurious cffects when perpetrated. against all undue severity, as cruel, The difficulty of procuring sufficient impolitic and unjust. Montesquieu evidence, and the danger of unjust observes, that “in all, or almost all conviction, in this case, form alone no the governments of Europe, penalties. slight argument against making the have increased or diminished in prooffence capital. Surely, no person portion as those governments favoured ought ever to suffer death on the tes or discouraged liberty.” If he could timony of one witness. Indeed, there view the case as it now exists in this. are two considerations, which of them- country, he would probably remark, selves ought to make the punishment that the liberty largely diffused through of death exceedingly rare in penal our political systein had combated the statutes. One is, that even under the obliquity of our criminal law, and most pure administration of justice, amidst much disorder and mischief some persons will occasionally be con- had mitigated its severity, and nearly victed of crimes of which they are in- paralized its force. It has been most nocent, through perjury in witnesses, truly said, that the efficiency of punishunisconstruction of circumstantial evi- ments greatly depends upon their cer
Essay on the Principles of Criminal Law.
tainty: The prerogative of mercy is, should not be unduly severe, but suitindeed, one of the brightest jewels in ed and proportioned to the offence, as the crown of a prince; and as every far as could be effected by a judicious crown is set with thorns as well as classification of crimes, and a wise jewels, we ought not wantonly to de- system of penalties. spoil the sovereign of any of the lat We have mentioned 4thly, that anoter.
But to make this prerogative ther end of criıninal law should be most valuable, it should be brought to make reparation, wherever it is into exercise only on extraordinary oc- practicable, to the party injured. This casions. That its use should be con- principle, we know, would be opposed fined to a narrow field, seems essen, by many whose judgment deserves tial to the public good, which includes regard. They would contend, that the advantage of the head as well as although crime includes a private inof the members. The lenity of the jury, yet in the greater crimes “the state in its criminal laws should ren. private wrong is swallowed up in tlie der needless the frequent exercise of public.” In murder and a few other mercy by the executive power. To crimes, compensation is admitted to mitigate the severity of punishment, be impossible. But can any sufficient and to shorten its duration, upon evi- reason be assigned for rejecting the dence of contrition and reform in the general principle of satisfaction to the conviet, or upon the discovery of well- party injured in cases of robbery, attested and important circumstances fraud and other attacks upon proaffeeting the justice of the conviction, perty? The Legislator of the Jews seems to be the proper sphere of this ordained that the thief should restore prerogative; and it is doubtful whe- double, or four or five-fold in certain ther, if the criminal code of a country circumstances, to the party robbed : were in all respects just and lenient, and shall we say that this precedent it ought erer to extend to commuting deserves no attention, because in its punishments, or to pardon without full extent it is among us impracticagood cause assigned. The letter and ble? Under the laws of hue and cry, spirit of the law should correspond, and in case of riots, the party whose and both should agree with reason property has been stolen or destroyed, and religion; and then it would be may recover the amount of his loss for the public welfare that the law from the district where the offence is pronounced should be invariably exe- committed. But no notice is taken cuted, saving only the right of the so- of the offender in this view. vereign w shew mercy in the cases be said that by adopting the principle above mentioned. And to insure a in question, a wide door would be just decision, it is equally important opened to imposition on the part of that the court should be clear of all prosecutors; and that prosecutions obstructions to the prisoner and the inight even take place for the purpose prosecutor. The judge should, as of private gain. But, surely, such imnow, be the prisoner's counsel, if he positions might be prevented in all had no other, to point out where the cases of alleged loss of property, by evidence was defective, and to state making it a part of the duty of a jury fairly the force of any just plea in his to investigate the matter, and to cerfavour. And on the other hand, no tify the amount of the loss in their technical or clerical flaw in the indict. verdict. “And when imposition is prement, or other defect in mere form, vented, the idea of prosecuting for the should be fatal to the proceedings, but sake of gain could never be enterthe error should be corrected on the tained. Indeed, the difficulty of supspot. The prosecutor should likewise, plying prisoners with employment, upon conviction, always be allowed from which a profit might be drawn, the full amount of his fair costs and would probably be urged as an insucharges, fees to counsel excepted.- perable objection to laws requiring Enough of discouragement would then reparation in kind. By mere difficulremain against frivolous and vindictive ties, however, not amounting to improsecutions. We should equally de- possibilities, no ardent friend of his sire that the innocent should not suf. species would be deterred from meafer; that the guilty should not escape sures of great public importance and with impunity; and that punishment apparent advantage. The difficulty
contemplated would be materially di- not to stand in the way of real arid minished by proper exertions on the needful improvement. So much repart of the magistracy; and the com- gard should be paid to the inducnce munity should be made to feel an in- of habit, that the reform of bad institerest in the snbject. It would seem tutions should commonly be carried right that a certain proportion of the forward by degrees, varying according loss, not less than half, should imme- to the nature of the subject and to diately be restored, upon conviction, the circumstances connected with it.' to the party injured, upon the order But it is incumbent upon those who of the judge without suit
, out of the would oppose every change professing funds of the county where the crime to be an improvement, by the declarawas committed; provided the claim- tion, “nolumus leges Angliæ mu-ant had not been remiss in bringing tare," to prove that legislators never the offender to justice. Frivolous, make a bad law, and that laws origiindeed, would be the objection that nally good, can never become bad by with such claims to indemnity, men lapse of time and alterations in the would not have a sufficient induce- state of society. In the reform of our ment to guard their property from penal laws it seems that much may be violence or fraud. An inducement done at once, and a foundation laid would remain quite as powerful, as for all that should follow, without apparently ought to exist in any well- danger or material inconvenience. To governed state. Loss would in nearly make sure provision for the universal every instance be sustained after all; instruction of the children of the poor, and the inevitable trouble and vexa- attending, especially to the means of stion of prosecutions would not appear fixing religious and moral impressions as things to be courted or lightly re on their minds, is the first, though in garded. Many a person is robbed or one view a collateral, step in this great defrauded to an extent either ruinous work. Measures directly bearing or most grievous to him ; and shall upon the subject, and immediately resociety sternly leave him to suffer, quired, are, to amend a large proporunder the unfounded pretence, that tion of our penal statutes, and to esta.to afford relief would be to give a pre- blish a regulated system of punishemium upon the commission of crimes ? ments, consonant in essential points Unfeeling avarice alone could suggest to justice, humanity and religion ; *so such pleas and such practices, which that the law should no longer utter an Alfred would no more have suffer- violent denunciations in terrorem, but ed at this period than in his own age. should speak in the simple, impressive As to the criminals, even if it should language of certainty, prescribing peprove impossible to draw much profit 'nalties which, not being excessive, from their labour, still they ought to should be enforced as a matter satulabour with that view, either for life rally consequent upon the conviction or for a definite period, according to of offenders : and to mention last the nature of the offence. Justice and what is of primary importance, the policy seem loudly to demand that remodelling of most of our prisons, this should be a part of the sentence for the proper classification, discifor felony, larceny, fraud and every pline, separation and employment of crime admitting of compensation; and criminals. In dealing with actual crias proving to the criminal that his minals here, we must look for the pursuits were likely to be in every chief means of repressing crime; and view unprofitable, it would not be here the mighty mass of existing evil without a salutary effect.
will demand ail the wisdom and enerLate, and not without reluctance, gy and perseverance of the supreme we appear to be entering upon the re- and local authorities. * The 24th form of our criminal code. The reluctance manifested in relation to this work proceeds indeed, generally, from
* My pen would fail to express the a principle, which well directed, we
sense which I entertain of the high desert could not censure—the principle of rated with her, of Mr. Buxton and Mr.
of Mrs. Fry and those who have co-opeattachment to established laws and Gurney, in their endeavours to effect the usages. But dislike of innovation reform of prisons and of their inmates ; ought to have reasonable bounds, and but posterity will not be silent in their
Register of Births at Dr. Williams's Library.
33 Geo. III. c. 54, and other existing good evidence: the hand-writing of a statutes have been referred to from father in a family-bible or pocket-book the Bench, as providing a remedy for has been received: and it cannot this evil; but it is to be remembered therefore be that so regular and forthat these statutes in their most ma- mal a registry as that at the Library, terial points are not imperative; they in Red-Cross Street, should be invapermit very much to be done, but tid. At the same time, it behoves they actually require very little. The the Deputies to obtain and make expense of money that may be need. known some competent legal opinions ful in the first instance to make our upon the case, for their own justificaprisons what they ought to be, de tion, and for the satisfaction of every serves not to be mentioned as an im. one who, like myself, is pediment or objection. Shall we ex- A DISSENTER AND A PARENT. pend 50 millions in a year for the operations of war; for works of destruction; and shall we grudge perhaps Dr. John Jones on the Proposition five millions for permanent works of that the Divinity of Christ was dicjustice and mercy, tending in the high tated by Heathenism, in order to est degree to correct and restrain vice, account for his Miracles. and to secure the persons and proper. ties of a nation? Those who would THE first proposition which I have answer in the affirmative, must be pre
to illustrate is, That such was pared to say in plain terms that they the genius of Heathenism, that its voprefer evil to good.
taries, as soon as they had heard of The eyes of contemporary millions the miracles of Jesus, and had reason are fixed upon the British Legislature to believe them to be true, were unaon this occasion, and generations to voidably led to consider hiin as a God. come will review their proceedings.
The Heathens, it is well known, beMay their acts be such as to merit lieved in the existence and agency and obtain the applause of the present
of many gods. These, as they supand of future ages!
posed, often appeared in the shape, or entered the bodies, of men. , The
Greek and the Roman writers abound ŞIR,
with instances of their interposition THE opinion or rather judgment in both these respects ; and the notion
of Sir Thomas Plumer, the Mas was as familiar as that of ghosts or ter of the Rolls, on the insufficiency evil spirits, entertained by the vulgar of the Register of Births kept by the in modern days. When Christ apDissenting Deputies, at Dr. Williams's peared and exhibited in the miracles Library, (as reported by your corre, which he performed the proofs of his spondent, A. B., XVII. 728,) may divine mission, the conclusion was possibly disturb the minds of some of natural that he was himself one of the your readers. I am persuaded, how, gods, acting by virtue of his own ever, that the dictum of the learned power, and not with the authority of judge is of little authority, and would a higher Being. I will illustrate this have no influence in any other Court by two examples of unquestionable It has been again and again laid down authenticity. When Paul miracuin law, that any register of a birth lously healed the infirın inan in Lysmay be, under certain circumstances, tra, Acts xiv. 11, “the people,” we
are told, “lifted up their voice in the
language of Lycaonia, The gods are praise; (if that poor meed could be of come down to us in the likeness of importance to them;) and what these
men." If Christ had been the author private individuals have effected may of this miracle, the people of that surely encourage others, and shew that place would doubtless have said the our object in its full extent is by no means impracticable. And our hopes of same thing of him. The inhabitants Bactess may be strong when we consider of other places would certainly have that in the present administration there drawn a similar inference, differing is unquestionably a large portion of bene- only as to what god he might be, each Folence, and of an upright disposition to supposing him to be that divinity to promote the public welfare.
which he was most particularly deVOL. XVIII.
voted : and if they would suppose him condemned. His acquittal is an une-
power; an immense numhe was
a setter forth of new gods;" ber, even of foreigners, being attractand the sacred historian subjoins the ed to him, in the hope of being healed reason, “Because he preached Jesus by him of the various diseases which and the resurrection.” Acts xvii. In afflicted thein." Here, it is asserted the estimation of a Heathen, superio that all nations celebrated the divinity rity to death was the most decisive of Christ, and that the grounds of proof of divinity; so that in their opi this celebration were the wonderful nion, to assert that Jesus survived works performed by him. It is clear, death, was the same thing as to assert therefore, that, according to the surthat he was a god. To introduce a rounding nations who heard the fame new god_at Athens was a capital of Jesus, he was a supernatural becrime. Three centuries before, So ing, because he did things above the crates was put to death under that course of nature. very charge; and they instantly con A well-known passage of Tertullian ducted the apostle to the Areopagus in his Apology, cap. 6, (see Lardner, to have him condemned for the same Vol. VII, p. 243,) draws the same offence. Paul effectually sets aside conclusion. Tiberius, in whose the charge, by holding forth Jesus as reign the Christian name appeared in a man appointed of God to judge the the world, having received from Palesworld, and raised from the grave by tine, in Syria, an account of the works the power of the Almighty.' The no which revealed and verified the divition of one Supreme God, as the Cre- nity of Jesus, proposed him to the ator and Governor of the universe, Senate, with the privilege of his own was not unknown to the Athenian vote in favour of his deification. The philosophers ; but lest the preaching Senate, because he had himself refused of this Great Being should be inade that honour, rejected the proposal ; the grounds of a new accusation Cæsar remained of the same opinion, against the apostle, he, with admira- and threatened to punish the accusers ble wisdom and presence of mind, of the Christians." Here, again, it is precludes it by an appeal to their own asserted that the works of Jesus prore writers, and especially to an altar ed his divinity. The conduct of Tibeerected to the unknown god in that rius, who was a Heathen, in propose very city. Here, we are presented ing the deification of Jesus, proves with a very remarkable fact, inost wor. that he drew the same inference. But thy the notice of those who believe it is remarkable that Tertullian, who that Paul taught the Godhead of our was a Christian, and who had opporSaviour. The people of Athens, mis- tunities to know better, should assert led by polytheism, charged that apos. that the miracles of our Lord verified, tle with holding forth the divinity of not indeed his divine mission, but his Christ as an object of their accept- divine nature. This shews that Terance. And what did this great cham- tullian and Eusebius reasoned exactly pion of the religion of Jesus do, in con as the Heathens did respecting the sequence? Did he meet the charge nature of Christ, and that the real and avow it? This he certainly would source of their belief in his divinity have done, had it been well-founded, was Heathenism. even at the risk of his life. On the Eusebius and Orosius have related contrary, he cuts up the charge by the this fact nearly in the words of Ter. roots as grounded in misconception; tullian. The words of Orosius are the and he was accordingly discharged. following : "Tiberius proposed to the Had he attempted to justify that doc- Senate that Christ should be made a trine, he would have been instantly god, with his own vote in his favour,