Imatges de pÓgina
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wandering without a testimonial, &c. &c.) made capital in our statute book. But it will be argued, that there are several crimes, besides murder, for which the punishment of death is suitable and just. We will briefly consider two of the foremost in this class of crimes; forgery and rape. That men are not very effectually restrained from the crime of forgery, by the certain loss of life upon detection and conviction, is proved beyond doubt by a superabundance of lamentable facts. Then, is the punishment of death peculiarly called for by the atrocity of the offence? Surely not. This crime may, indeed, by an easy mode occasion very extensive mischief, and therefore demands penalties of appropriate rigour. But might not these be found in perpetual or long imprisonment, and hard labour, and hard fare, by which the criminal would rather be put to make amends, than, strictly speaking, to atone for his offence? Public justice, methinks, would by these means be fully satisfied, and policy no less consulted. As to the other crime that has been mentioned, the duty and importance of protecting female chastity from brutal violation admit of no dispute. Our laws in relation to female chastity, in general, may, indeed, be considered as rather curious, punishing rape with death, and making adultery the subject of a civil action! But, apart from such considerations, we may justly, very justly, doubt whether rape ought to be punished with death; although, like forgery, requiring to be restrained with a strong hand, on account of the violence of that passion which might lead to the crime, and its injurious effects when perpetrated. The difficulty of procuring sufficient evidence, and the danger of unjust conviction, in this case, form alone no slight argument against making the offence capital. Surely, no person ought ever to suffer death on the testimony of one witness. Indeed, there are two considerations, which of themselves ought to make the punishment of death exceedingly rare in penal statutes. One is, that even under the most pure administration of justice, some persons will occasionally be convicted of crimes of which they are innocent, through perjury in witnesses, misconstruction of circumstantial evi

dence, or other causes. Now, the innocence of such persons may be, and sometimes actually is, afterwards established, and if their lives were spared, they might be reinstated in their proper place in society, and some compensation might be made to them for their unjust sufferings. But if they had undergone the punishment of death, all means of repairing the dreadful mistake would for ever be removed. The most earnest advocates for capital punishments might feel a tremor at the contemplation of a case of this kind. But the other consideration, to which I would refer, ought to have still more weight. Christians believe in a future state of existence, where the wicked will endure punishment, compared to which the most severe of human penalties are beyond expression light. Yet we send the criminal, at no distant period after conviction, and sometimes within forty-eight hours, to this unseen world. Ministers of religion, undoubtedly, attend him, and prescribe repentance, and administer religious rites, and discourse of salvation through the Redeemer of sinners. But can we hope that repentance often takes place within the utmost period now allowed between sentence and execution, and especially within the forty-eight hours afforded, where the crime has been of the deepest dye? Let us not be deceived, nor blindly commit irreparable and awful injury where we profess only to award justice.

The punishment of death has been particularly adverted to as being the highest penalty known to our laws, and as involving the most important consequences. But our argument lies. against all undue severity, as cruel, impolitic and unjust. Montesquieu observes, that "in all, or almost all the governments of Europe, penalties. have increased or diminished in proportion as those governments favoured or discouraged liberty." If he could view the case as it now exists in this country, he would probably remark, that the liberty largely diffused through our political system had combated the obliquity of our criminal law, and amidst much disorder and mischief had mitigated its severity, and nearly paralized its force. It has been most truly said, that the efficiency of punishments greatly depends upon their cer

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tainty. The prerogative of mercy is, indeed, one of the brightest jewels in the crown of a prince; and as every crown is set with thorns as well as jewels, we ought not wantonly to despoil the sovereign of any of the latter. But to make this prerogative most valuable, it should be brought into exercise only on extraordinary occasions. That its use should be confined to a narrow field, seems essential to the public good, which includes the advantage of the head as well as of the members. The lenity of the state in its criminal laws should render needless the frequent exercise of mercy by the executive power. To mitigate the severity of punishment, and to shorten its duration, upon evidence of contrition and reform in the convict, or upon the discovery of wellattested and important circumstances affecting the justice of the conviction, seems to be the proper sphere of this prerogative; and it is doubtful whether, if the criminal code of a country were in all respects just and lenient, it ought ever to extend to commuting punishments, or to pardon without good cause assigned. The letter and spirit of the law should correspond, and both should agree with reason and religion; and then it would be for the public welfare that the law pronounced should be invariably executed, saving only the right of the Sovereign to shew mercy in the cases above mentioned. And to insure a just decision, it is equally important that the court should be clear of all obstructions to the prisoner and the prosecutor. The judge should, as now, be the prisoner's counsel, if he had no other, to point out where the evidence was defective, and to state fairly the force of any just plea in his favour. And on the other hand, no technical or clerical flaw in the indictment, or other defect in mere form, should be fatal to the proceedings, but the error should be corrected on the spot. The prosecutor should likewise, upon conviction, always be allowed the full amount of his fair costs and charges, fees to counsel excepted.Enough of discouragement would then remain against frivolous and vindictive prosecutions. We should equally desire that the innocent should not suffer; that the guilty should not escape with impunity; and that punishment

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should not be unduly severe, but suited and proportioned to the offence, as far as could be effected by a judicious classification of crimes, and a wise system of penalties.

We have mentioned 4thly, that another end of criminal law should be to make reparation, wherever it is practicable, to the party injured. This principle, we know, would be opposed by many whose judgment deserves regard. They would contend, that although crime includes a private injury, yet in the greater crimes "the private wrong is swallowed up in tlie public." In murder and a few other crimes, compensation is admitted to be impossible. But can any sufficient reason be assigned for rejecting the general principle of satisfaction to the party injured in cases of robbery, fraud and other attacks upon property? The Legislator of the Jews ordained that the thief should restore double, or four or five-fold in certain circumstances, to the party robbed : and shall we say that this precedent deserves no attention, because in its full extent it is among us impracticable? Under the laws of hue and cry, and in case of riots, the party whose property has been stolen or destroyed, may recover the amount of his loss from the district where the offence is committed. But no notice is taken of the offender in this view. It may be said that by adopting the principle in question, a wide door would be opened to imposition on the part of prosecutors; and that prosecutions might even take place for the purpose of private gain. But, surely, such impositions might be prevented in all cases of alleged loss of property, by making it a part of the duty of a jury to investigate the matter, and to certify the amount of the loss in their verdict. And when imposition is prevented, the idea of prosecuting for the sake of gain could never be entertained. Indeed, the difficulty of supplying prisoners with employment, from which a profit might be drawn, would probably be urged as an insuperable objection to laws requiring reparation in kind. By mere difficulties, however, not amounting to impossibilities, no ardent friend of his species would be deterred from measures of great public importance and apparent advantage. The difficulty

-contemplated would be materially diminished by proper exertions on the part of the magistracy; and the community should be made to feel an interest in the subject. It would seem right that a certain proportion of the loss, not less than half, should immediately be restored, upon conviction, to the party injured, upon the order of the judge without suit, out of the funds of the county where the crime was committed; provided the claim-ant had not been remiss in bringing the offender to justice. Frivolous, indeed, would be the objection that with such claims to indemnity, men would not have a sufficient inducement to guard their property from violence or fraud. An inducement would remain quite as powerful, as apparently ought to exist in any wellgoverned state. Loss would in nearly every instance be sustained after all; and the inevitable trouble and vexastion of prosecutions would not appear as things to be courted or lightly regarded. Many a person is robbed or defrauded to an extent either ruinous or most grievous to him; and shall society sternly leave him to suffer, under the unfounded pretence, that to afford relief would be to give a premium upon the commission of crimes? Unfeeling avarice alone could suggest such pleas and such practices, which an Alfred would no more have suffered at this period than in his own age. As to the criminals, even if it should prove impossible to draw much profit from their labour, still they ought to labour with that view, either for life or for a definite period, according to the nature of the offence. Justice and policy seem loudly to demand that this should be a part of the sentence for felony, larceny, fraud and every crime admitting of compensation; and as proving to the criminal that his pursuits were likely to be in every view unprofitable, it would not be without a salutary effect.

Late, and not without reluctance, we appear to be entering upon the reform of our criminal code. The reluctance manifested in relation to this work proceeds indeed, generally, from a principle, which well directed, we could not censure-the principle of attachment to established laws and usages. But dislike of innovation ought to have reasonable bounds, and

not to stand in the way of real and needful improvement. So much regard should be paid to the influence of habit, that the reform of bad institutions should commonly be carried forward by degrees, varying according to the nature of the subject and to the circumstances connected with it. But it is incumbent upon those who would oppose every change professing to be an improvement, by the declaration, "nolumus leges Angliæ mutare," to prove that legislators never make a bad law, and that laws originally good, can never become bad by lapse of time and alterations in the state of society. In the reform of our penal laws it seems that much may be done at once, and a foundation laid for all that should follow, without danger or material inconvenience. To make sure provision for the universal instruction of the children of the poor, attending especially to the means of fixing religious and moral impressions on their minds, is the first, though in one view a collateral, step in this great work. Measures directly bearing upon the subject, and immediately required, are, to amend a large proportion of our penal statutes, and to establish a regulated system of punishments, consonant in essential points to justice, humanity and religion ;* so that the law should no longer utter violent denunciations in terrorem, but should speak in the simple, impressive language of certainty, prescribing penalties which, not being excessive, should be enforced as a matter naturally consequent upon the conviction of offenders: and to mention last what is of primary importance, the remodelling of most of our prisons, for the proper classification, disci pline, separation and employment of criminals. In dealing with actual criminals here, we must look for the chief means of repressing crime; and here the mighty mass of existing evil will demand all the wisdom and energy and perseverance of the supreme and local authorities. * The 24th

*My pen would fail to express the sense which I entertain of the high desert of Mrs. Fry and those who have co-operated with her, of Mr. Buxton and Mr. Gurney, in their endeavours to effect the reform of prisons and of their inmates; but posterity will not be silent in their

Geo. III. c. 54, and other existing statutes have been referred to from the Bench, as providing a remedy for this evil; but it is to be remembered that these statutes in their most material points are not imperative; they permit very much to be done, but they actually require very little. The expense of money that may be needful in the first instance to make our prisons what they ought to be, deserves not to be mentioned as an impediment or objection. Shall we expend 50 millions in a year for the operations of war; for works of destruction; and shall we grudge perhaps five millions for permanent works of justice and mercy, tending in the highest degree to correct and restrain vice, and and ties of a nation? Those who would answer in the affirmative, must be prepared to say in plain terms that they prefer evil to good.

The eyes of contemporary millions are fixed upon the British Legislature on this occasion, and generations to come will review their proceedings. May their acts be such as to merit and obtain the applause of the present and of future ages!

SIR,

THE opinion or rather judgment ter of the Rolls, on the insufficiency of the Register of Births kept by the Dissenting Deputies, at Dr. Williams's Library, (as reported by your correspondent, A. B., XVIÍ. 728,) may possibly disturb the minds of some of your readers. I am persuaded, however, that the dictum of the learned judge is of little authority, and would have no influence in any other Court. It has been again and again laid down in law, that any register of a birth may be, under certain circumstances,

praise; (if that poor meed could be of importance to them;) and what these private individuals have effected may surely encourage others, and shew that our object in its full extent is by no means impracticable. And our hopes of success may be strong when we consider that in the present administration there is unquestionably a large portion of benePolence, and of an upright disposition to promote the public welfare. VOL. XVIII.

good evidence: the hand-writing of a father in a family-bible or pocket-book has been received: and it cannot therefore be that so regular and formal a registry as that at the Library, in Red-Cross Street, should be invalid. At the same time, it behoves the Deputies to obtain and make known some competent legal opinions upon the case, for their own justification, and for the satisfaction of every one who, like myself, is

A DISSENTER AND A PARENT.

F

Dr. John Jones on the Proposition that the Divinity of Christ was dictated by Heathenism, in order to account for his Miracles.

HE

which I have

to illustrate is, That such was the genius of Heathenism, that its votaries, as soon as they had heard of the miracles of Jesus, and had reason to believe them to be true, were unavoidably led to consider him as a God.

The Heathens, it is well known, believed in the existence and agency of many gods. These, as they supposed, often appeared in the shape, or entered the bodies, of men., The Greek and the Roman writers abound with instances of their interposition in both these respects; and the notion

evil spirits, entertained by the vulgar in modern days. When Christ appeared and exhibited in the miracles which he performed the proofs of his divine mission, the conclusion was natural that he was himself one of the gods, acting by virtue of his own power, and not with the authority of a higher Being. I will illustrate this by two examples of unquestionable authenticity. When Paul miraculously healed the infirm man in Lystra, Acts xiv. 11, "the people," we are told, "lifted up their voice in the language of Lycaonia, The gods. are come down to us in the likeness of men." If Christ had been the author of this miracle, the people of that place would doubtless have said the same thing of him. The inhabitants of other places would certainly have drawn a similar inference, differing only as to what god he might be, each supposing him to be that divinity to which he was most particularly de

condemned. His acquittal is an une
quivocal fact that he negatived it, as a
mere dictate of Heathenism.

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voted: and if they would suppose him to be a god from this miracle, they would, à fortiori, have had recourse to the same supposition from all his miracles, and especially from the stupendous miracle of his resurrection. Another example, illustrative of the genius of Paganism, presents itself in the discourse of Paul at Athens. His hearers immediately concluded that he was "a setter forth of new gods;" and the sacred historian subjoins the reason, "Because he preached Jesus and the resurrection." Acts xvii. In the estimation of a Heathen, superiority to death was the most decisive proof of divinity; so that in their opinion, to assert that Jesus survived death, was the same thing as to assert that he was a god. To introduce new god at Athens was a capital crime. Three centuries before, Socrates was put to death under that very charge; and they instantly conducted the apostle to the Areopagus to have him condemned for the same offence. Paul effectually sets aside the charge, by holding forth Jesus as a man appointed of God to judge the world, and raised from the grave by the power of the Almighty. The notion of one Supreme God, as the Creator and Governor of the universe, was not unknown to the Athenian philosophers; but lest the preaching of this Great Being should be made the grounds of a new accusation against the apostle, he, with admirable wisdom and presence of mind, precludes it by an appeal to their own writers, and especially to an altar erected to the unknown god in that very city. Here, we are presented with a very remarkable fact, most worthy the notice of those who believe that Paul taught the Godhead of our Saviour. The people of Athens, misled by polytheism, charged that apostle with holding forth the divinity of Christ as an object of their acceptance. And what did this great champion of the religion of Jesus do, in consequence? Did he meet the charge and avow it? This he certainly would have done, had it been well-founded, even at the risk of his life. On the contrary, he cuts up the charge by the roots as grounded in misconception; and he was accordingly discharged. Had he attempted to justify that doctrine, he would have been instantly

The conclusion on which I here insist, is directly asserted by Eusebius in his Ecclesiastical History, lib. i. 13. "The divinity of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ was celebrated among all nations by means of his wonderful power; an immense number, even of foreigners, being attracted to him, in the hope of being healed by him of the various diseases which afflicted them." Here, it is asserted that all nations celebrated the divinity of Christ, and that the grounds of this celebration were the wonderful works performed by him. It is clear, therefore, that, according to the surrounding nations who heard the fame of Jesus, he was a supernatural being, because he did things above the course of nature.

A well-known passage of Tertullian in his Apology, cap. 6, (see Lardner, Vol. VII. p. 243,) draws the same conclusion. "Tiberius, in whose reign the Christian name appeared in the world, having received from Palestine, in Syria, an account of the works which revealed and verified the divinity of Jesus, proposed him to the Senate, with the privilege of his own vote in favour of his deification. The Senate, because he had himself refused that honour, rejected the proposal; Cæsar remained of the same opinion, and threatened to punish the accusers of the Christians." Here, again, it is asserted that the works of Jesus proved his divinity. The conduct of Tiberius, who was a Heathen, in proposing the deification of Jesus, proves that he drew the same inference. But it is remarkable that Tertullian, who was a Christian, and who had opportunities to know better, should assert that the miracles of our Lord verified, not indeed his divine mission, but his divine nature. This shews that Tertullian and Eusebius reasoned exactly as the Heathens did respecting the nature of Christ, and that the real source of their belief in his divinity was Heathenism.

Eusebius and Orosius have related this fact nearly in the words of Tertullian. The words of Orosius are the following: "Tiberius proposed to the Senate that Christ should be made a god, with his own vote in his favour,

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